Neymar and Jordi Alba benefited form two superb assists by Lionel Messi to deliver a domestic double for Barcelona following a 2-0 victory over Sevilla on Sunday night.
A first half Red card to Barcelona’s Javier Mascherano and the second half sending off of Sevilla’s Banega left the extra time of the Copa del Rey final finely poised after both sides failed to score during normal time at the Vincent Calderon stadium.
Barcelona were unchanged and full-strength at the Vicente Calderon as Sevilla made two changes from their 3-1 victory over Liverpool in the Europa League final on Wednesday, with David Soria and Steven N’Zonzi being replaced by Sergio Rico and Vicente Iborra.
Season doubles were at stake at the Vicente Calderon due to Barcelona’s League triumph and Sevilla’s Europa glory in the past week.
The Catalans came closest to taking the lead through Pichichi winner Luis Suarez, who took down Andres Iniesta’s scooped pass in the Sevilla box and volleyed just wide in what turned out to be their only shot on target in the first half.
Sevilla, meanwhile, worked tremendously hard to stifle their opponents, almost getting in behind on a couple of occasions through Kevin Gameiro, and they thought they had won a penalty when Gerard Pique missed his header and the Frenchman’s shirt was pulled by Javier Mascherano.
A spot-kick may not have been awarded but Mascherano was sent off as the last man, having made the foul in the Barcelona’s defense. Ever Banega on possibly his last Sevilla appearance before moving to Inter Milan then bent the free kick towards the top corner of Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s goal, but the German did well to push the ball over.
That wasn’t Ter Stegens only save, however, as he was forced to keep out Sergio Escudero’s cross-cum-shot, which threatened to sneak past the goalkeeper at the near post.
Later, not long after the second half had gotten underway, Barça received a second shock, as Luis Suárez had to leave the game with an injury after stretching just a bit too far to haul in a pass.
As Suárez sauntered off gingerly, Luis Enrique conferred with his assistants in the face of what was looking more and more like a chess match.
With Sevilla getting ever deeper into Barça territory and threatening to take the lead, midfielder Éver Banega was shown a red card after tackling Neymar from behind just outside the box. Just like Mascherano, Banega was also judged to be the last man.
Tasked with a 22-metre free kick to essentially win the game, Messi somewhat awkwardly lobbed the ball over the wall before it was slapped over the bar by Sergio Rico.
Nevertheless, when the whistle came signalling the end of regulation, Barça, no longer down a man, were visibly relieved and used the hiatus to regroup both physically and mentally.
The Barça XI came out of the huddle looking as confident as they had all evening. If they were going to win this one they would have to do it like they did in last summer’s Super Cup — in extra time. And that’s just what happened.
Retaking control of the game, Messi picked out Alba with a long pass and the speedy full-back hauled it in before flicking it past Sergio Rico for the game’s first score in the 97th minute.
Celebrations erupted on the Barça bench and among the throngs of supporters who had made the trip to Madrid.
There were still 20 minutes left of extra time. As the clock plodded on into triple digits, players from both sides appeared to be on the verge of physical exhaustion. With Sevilla now fighting for their lives, defender Daniel Carriço was booked twice in the 120th minute after a hard tackle on Messi followed by a surplus of vociferous protest.
On the ensuing play, and with the game, and the tournament, all but over, Messi found Neymar in the Sevilla area and the Brazilian slotted past Rico, touching off FC Barcelona’s second title celebration in the last eight days.
Barcelona XI: Ter Stegen; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez, Neymar
Sevilla XI: Rico; Mariano, Carrico, Rami, Escudero; Krychowiak, Iborra; Coke, Banega, Vitolo; Gameiro