Dembele, Pique 8/10 as Barcelona rally to reach Copa del Rey final

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Dembele, Pique 8/10 as Barcelona rally to reach Copa del Rey final


Barcelona produced a remarkable comeback to beat Sevilla 3-0 after extra time at Camp Nou on Wednesday, turning around a two-goal first-leg deficit to make the final of the Copa del Rey and keep their best chance at a trophy alive.

Substitute Martin Braithwaite headed home the winner in the 95th minute after Gerard Pique’s glancing header, which proved the last touch of normal time, had dramatically forced extra time.

Ousmane Dembele had earlier opened the scoring with a stunning effort from 20 yards, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen saving a second-half penalty from Lucas Ocampos before Fernando was sent off for Sevilla minutes before Pique’s equaliser.

Barca will meet either Athletic Bilbao or Levante in the final in April. The two sides meet in Valencia on Thursday after a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Bilbao last month.

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Positives

Barca’s season was written off after a 2-0 first-leg defeat in Seville was followed by a 4-1 Champions League defeat to Paris Saint-Germain. However, since then, they’ve cut the gap on La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid to five points and now have a cup final to look forward to next month. A repeat of last season’s trophy-less campaign is looking a little less likely than it once did.

In Wednesday’s win — as was the case in the win at Sevilla in the league on Saturday — Barca looked hungry again. They pressed well, giving Sevilla no time to breathe, and adapted well to their formation, with Ronald Koeman once again opting to play with three central defenders. Regardless of the off-pitch problems, the team looks united and committed to its coach.

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Negatives

It looked like Barca’s impressive performance and all their hard work would be for nothing heading into injury time. Prior to Pique’s goal, they’d failed to make the most of their possession in and around the box, with a desire to walk the ball into the back of the net costing them. They need to shoot when they get the chance in and around the area, and they also need to be quicker about it.

Manager rating out of 10

8 — Koeman stuck with the same side that beat Sevilla comfortably on Saturday and reaped the rewards in the first half. His substitutions, which seemed strange at first glance, also helped swing the game in Barca’s favour in the end.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 8 — The penalty save from Ocampos was huge. Without it, Sevilla have an away goal and Barca would have been all but out of the competition.

DF Oscar Mingueza, 8 — The B-team defender showed once again that he’s with the first team to stay. A perfect fit for the right-sided centre-back role in a three-man defence. Unfortunate to give the penalty away for a foul on Ocampos.

DF Gerard Pique, 8 — A colossal performance from the defender both at the back and up top. It’s incredible to think he has just returned from what many thought was a season-ending knee injury and been able to play so many minutes in such a short space of time.

DF Clement Lenglet, 6 — Looked more confident on the ball than in recent weeks but had a nervous wait in extra time when VAR reviewed a possible handball in the Sevilla box.

MF Sergino Dest, 6 — Almost a right-winger when Barca are on the front foot in this shape. Had some nice touches but struggled in one-on-ones with Marcos Acuna, who had too much strength for him. Came off after an hour.

MF Sergio Busquets, 7 — Good on the ball and pressed well but couldn’t quite find that incisive pass in the final third.

MF Frenkie de Jong, 7 — Didn’t stop running for 120 minutes, helping in defence and in attack.

MF Pedri, 7 — Started the game despite being ruled out for two weeks with a calf problem as recently as Sunday. Quick on the ball and vital to Barca’s press, he just needs to work on his shooting — or at least start shooting more.

MF Jordi Alba, 9 — A threat in attack, thumping the bar with a brilliant volley and setting up the winner. Also worked hard to get back and defend, covering his colleagues and making some crucial blocks.

FW Lionel Messi, 7 — For once, he wasn’t involved in the game’s key moments, although he did slide in the pass for Dembele’s goal. That said, he was still central to almost every attack Barca pieced together.

FW Ousmane Dembele, 8 — Relishing playing as a focal point through the middle in this new formation. Had already had two chances when he expertly took his third. Sevilla were frightened whenever he ran at them.

Substitutes

FW Antoine Griezmann, 7 — Defended brilliantly and showed a calm head to beat his man and cross for Pique in the last minute of normal time.

DF Junior Firpo, 6 — Replaced Mingueza, who was on a booking, and did a good job on the right.

MF Ilaix Moriba, 6 — Koeman showed huge faith in the 18-year-old to bring him on with Barca still chasing the game, and he didn’t look out of place.

FW Martin Braithwaite, 6Scored the winner, getting in front of his man to connect with Alba’s cross.

FW Francisco Trincao, 6 – Impressively danced through the Sevilla defence late on but his shot was blocked.



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