Luis Enrique signs off with a win and yet another trophy
Barcelona signed off their season in fine style with a 3-1 win over Alaves in the final of the Copa del Rey in Luis Enrique’s final game as Barca coach.
Lionel Messi sent Barca on their way before Neymar and Paco Alcacer made the game safe in the last ever competitive game at the Vicente Calderon.
Barcelona lined up as expected with Jasper Cillessen in goal, Javier Mascherano returning in defence while Alcacer took the place of the suspended Luis Suarez in attack.
However, Mascherano lasted less than 10 minutes after having to depart on a stretcher after an ugly clash of heads with Marcos Llorente left him bleeding and dazed and swiftly replaced by Andre Gomes.
By that time Barcelona had already had their first chance of the game, Messi teeing up Jordi Alba who came flying down the left and headed across goal but Alcacer could not quite get on the end of it.
Alaves were certainly fired up for the clash and tempers occasionally threatened to boil over with Edgar Mendez booked for fouling Samuel Umtiti on the touchline and then appearing to stand on the defender who was left furious and remonstrated angrily with the officials.
Neymar was also seen berating the officials after Messi was fouled on the edge of the box and the referee played advantage as a feisty opening period threatening to boil over.
However, despite all their protestations Barcelona were lucky not to go behind after a mistake by Gerard Pique allowed Ibai Gomez to pinch possession and beat Jasper Cillessen at his near post, his shot then rebounded off the goalkeeper and rolled across the line.
Somehow Barcelona survived and minutes later they went ahead after yet another brilliant strike from Messi. The Argentine swapped passes with Neymar before sidefooting the ball home for his 54th goal of a simply brilliant season.
The lead did not last long however, Theo Hernandez equalising with a stunning free kick that gave Cillessen absolutely no chance and showed exactly what he has been in such demand this season.
The game looked to be heading into half-time on level terms when Messi suddenly turned on the magic once again. The Argentine fed the ball wide to Gomes who slipped it across goal for Neymar to tap home.
A minute later and it was almost over, Messi again the creator with a great run before slipping the ball to Alcacer who finished brilliantly to send Barcelona in 3-1 up at half-time.
The second half started in much the same vein, Iniesta teasing the ball to Messi who raced past Llorente and found Alcacer at the far post but he couldn’t quite force the ball past Pacheco.
Barca continued to boss the game however, Iniesta firing over although Alaves came back into and thought they’d grabbed one back with 20 minutes to go, Deyverson’s effort correctly ruled out for offside.
Tempers flared again shortly afterwards, Neymar going to ground in the penalty area after a push from Ruben Sobrino that led to a shoving match with Messi and Andres Iniesta both going into the book.
That was about as heated as it got however, with Barcelona seeing the game out safely thereafter and even sending on Aleix Vidal with 10 minutes to go as he completed an amazing recovery from a dislocated ankle.
The crowd chanted Lucho’s name in the final minutes as Barcelona made it three consecutive Copa del Rey titles with a deserved win and a ninth trophy as Barca boss for Enrique in his final game.