Messi serves, Suárez scores


Barça earn slim advantage over an orderly Valencia who rarely threatened Cillessen

Barcelona come out of the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final against Valencia with the slimmest of margins, but a fair one. Luis Suárez latched on to a superbly chipped cross from Messi to score with a header and secure a 1-0 win. Marcelino’s side contained the Culés as best they could but in the end it was not enough to avoid defeat.

· Summary and stats of the Barcelona-Valencia clash

Valencia resisted the Blaugrana assault throughout a first half that saw little in the way of clear chances for either sides. The ball was very much the property of the hosts, while the visitors were unable to give Cillessen any work to do. The moment that might have marked the game, and perhaps the whole tie, was the foul Sergi Roberto committed on Andreas Pereira, that saw the Barça player receive a yellow card, but which might well have merited a red: studs up, not looking for the ball, right on the thigh…

It was not the only controversy in the first 45, as Pereira himself was shown a yellow when he put the boot in on Messi, and Suárez complained after being struck by Paulista in the area. The referee, however, contained himself and avoided taking any major decisions.

In the second half, Marcelino’s side came out looking more up for it, and Parejo was the first to test Cillessen. Coutinho coming on for Aleix Vidal, whose influence on play was minimal, did make an impact on the way things panned out in the following minutes, because he gave the Culés more depth. Luis Suárez, on the ball as he always is, was lucky to escape a yellow card several times, but was, in the end, the one who opened the scoring. The Uruguayan pounced on a great ball from Messi, whose exquisite chip gave his friend the chance to score his 18th goal of the season, which he gladly took.

Valencia then started to think about damage limitation. The fact that they have a game against Atlético de Madrid this coming weekend forced Marcelino to save a few bullets. That explains his sending on Santi Mina for Rodrigo, and it was precisely the Galician who had a golden chance, in the 89th minute, forcing Cillessen out of his area to clear. The Dutch ‘keeper read the Valencia forward’s move perfectly, and did not allow him the chance to shoot, despite the risk of leaving an open goal.