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Coutinho on target, Barcelona in final

Philippe Coutinho after scoring on Thursday. (AFP)

Barcelona: FC 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 Philippe Coutinho scored his first goal for the club as they secured a 3-0 aggregate semi-final success.

Valencia bossed the first half at a packed Mestalla as the hosts chased down a 0-1 deficit but their hopes of a comeback were dashed when Brazilian Coutinho slid in to turn home a cross from his old Liverpool teammate Luis Suarez in the 49th minute.

Coutinho, who joined Barca from Liverpool for a club record $197.66 million in January, had been on the pitch less than three minutes when he scored, while Ivan Rakitic stretched the visitors’ lead eight minutes from time.

Barcelona have won 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 in the other semi-final to advance 3-1 on aggregate. “I feel very happy to be able to play in a final while being at the club for only a couple of months,” Coutinho told reporters. “We still have to play it and we’ve got a lot of things to do before the final.

“I have been trying to score since my first game and I’m happy to have done that, although the most important thing is that the team won the game and we are able to leave Mestalla happy.

“Everyone told me we could be the first team to reach five finals in a row, we all knew it and it’s a great achievement.”

Valencia were looking to reach the final for the first time in a decade and coach Marcelino deployed an attacking 4-3-3 formation which helped his side put Barca on the back foot in the early stages of the game.

Rodrigo Moreno came closest to scoring for the hosts when he crashed a header against the bar in the 13th minute and the Spain international was thwarted again later in the half by Barcelona goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen.

“We played a very good first half and we had some very good chances to score and level the tie, but when you’re playing against these teams if you don’t score the chances you get you pay a price,” said Valencia goalkeeper Jaume Domenech.

Meanwhile, Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde may have to consider a change of formation if Pique and Vermaelen are both out for Sunday’s game against Getafe. Without Pique, Vermaelen, the suspended Umtiti and the recently departed Javier Mascherano, Valverde would be left with only one central defender — January signing Yerry Mina.

The Colombian defender made his debut as a substitute in the Copa del Rey against Valencia on Thursday.  

KING’S CUP

BARCELONA    2
VALENCIA    0

Barcelona won 3-0 on aggregate

Agencies

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