Coutinho scores as Barcelona make Copa del Rey final
Barcelona reached the King’s Cup final for a record fifth year in a row on Thursday with a 2-0 second leg win at Valencia in which their latest recruit Philippe Coutinho scored his first goal for the club.
The Catalan club secured a 3-0 aggregate semi-final success.
Valencia dominated the first half at a packed Mestalla as the hosts chased down a 1-0 deficit but their hopes of a comeback were dashed when Brazilian Coutinho slid in to turn home a cross from his old Liverpool team mate Luis Suarez in the 49th minute.
Coutinho, who joined Barca from Liverpool for a club record 142 million pounds ($197.66 million) in January, had been on the pitch less than three minutes when he scored, while Ivan Rakitic stretched the vistors’ lead eight minutes from time.
It was the first time the Brazilian had found the net since his blockbuster 160 million-euro ($192 million) move from Liverpool in early January.
“For me it is my first final, so it is a very special moment,” Coutinho told Spanish TV station Gol.
“I am very happy. I had been searching for this goal in my first few matches. Today I got it and it helped the team get through to the final.”
Barcelona have lifted the trophy for the last three years and face Sevilla in the final on April 21, a re-run of the 2016 showpiece which the Catalans won 2-0 after extra time. Sevilla beat Leganes 2-0 on Wednesday to advance 3-1 on aggregate.
Valencia were hoping to reach the final for the first time since they won the trophy under Ronald Koeman in 2008, beating Barcelona in the last four on the way.
Trailing 1-0 from the first leg after Luis Suarez’s strike separated the teams at the Camp Nou last week, Valencia almost levelled the tie on aggregate early on. However, Rodrigo’s header beat Jasper Cillessen in the Barca goal only to come back off the bar.
Lionel Messi had come close on a couple of occasions for the visitors in the first half, but it was the introduction of Coutinho that swung the tie decisively their way.
Barca coach Ernesto Valverde sent his recent recruit on in place of Andre Gomes, and Coutinho quickly made his mark, turning in a Suarez cross at the back post.
Valencia had centre-back Ezequiel Garay carried off and then saw Cillessen make an incredible save to deny Jose Gaya from point-blank range in the 74th minute.
They were condemned to a sixth straight defeat in all competitions as Suarez pounced on a Gabriel Paulista error and set up Rakitic to make it 2-0 on the night.
The only slight setback for Barca was the sight of centre-back Gerard Pique coming off hurt late on, with Colombian international defender Yerry Mina coming on for his debut.