Lionel Messi scored twice to guide Barcelona to a comfortable 4-1 win over Espanyol in the first leg of their Copa del Rey round of 16 at the Nou Camp.
Last weekend, Espanyol frustrated the reigning European champions when Luis Enrique’s men were held to a goalless draw in Primera Division. The visitors took a shocking lead in the ninth minute when Felipe Caicedo fired home Marco Asensio’s cross from the center of the penalty area.
The hosts did not take long to level the score thanks to Lionel Messi, who finished from 12 yards after being played through Andres Iniesta. The Argentine put his team in front just before half-time, converting a free kick from outside the opponents’ box. Gerard Pique put the home side 3-1 as the second half began, the Spaniard nodded home from close range thanks to an assist from Messi.
The away side suffered two major blows as Henan Perez and Pape Diop were sent off for receiving their second yellows in the 72nd and 75th minutes, respectively. The high intensity Catalan derby was interrupted as referee Juan Martinez Munuera dished out 11 yellow cards and two red cards.
Less than two minutes before time, Neymar played one-two with Messi before the Brazilian smashed the fourth goal to give Barcelona a commanding first-leg lead. Lionel Messi, who is favorite to win Ballon d’Or next Monday, proved that he is the best and he can turn around games single handedly. Rosario-native scored twice and assisted the other two goals.
The Turkey international Arda Turan, who joined from Atletico Madrid, made his debut after the club’s ban had been ended on Monday. Another summer signing Aleix Vidal, who moved from Sevilla in June, also made his first appearance when he came off the bench.
The teams play their second leg on 13th of January, as Barca make the cross-town trip to Cornella de Llobregat, Barcelona. IMAGE/Albert Gea/Reuters