11 of February 2016 13:50:10
Barcelona’s attacking trio Neymar, Luis Suárez and Lionel Messi celebrate one of seven goals against Valencia.
REUTERS BARCELONA, Spain – Luis Suárez scored four goals and Lionel Messi grabbed a hat-trick as Barcelona all but wrapped up their Copa del Rey semifinal by crushing Valencia 7-0 in the first leg at the Nou Camp on Wednesday. Barely seven minutes had elapsed when Neymar stole the ball from a careless Andre Gomes in midfield, raced forward and passed to Suárez who rifled a shot across goal past Matthew Ryan. Barca went two up when Sergio Busquets sent a long ball down the right which Aleix Vidal pulled back for Suárez to blast past Ryan. “Great result which puts us closer to the objective,” Suárez told Movistar. “There’d have to be a catastrophe to not play the final.” Valencia struggled to contain a Barca side with Neymar, Messi and Suárez creating danger almost at will. Gary Neville’s side rarely got near goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen as Barcelona produced one of their best performances of the season with Andrés Iniesta and Messi playing in their ninth Copa del Rey semifinal in 10 seasons. Messi scored the third after a neat backheel from Neymar. On the stroke of halftime Barcelona were awarded a penalty when Shkodran Mustafi brought Messi down and was sent off but Neymar hit the post to leave the score 3-0 at the interval. Russian Denis Cheryshev came on as a substitute for his Valencia debut just before Messi scored Barca’s fourth in the 59th minute, taking a backheel from Suárez and weaving past two defenders. Valencia had the ball in the net in the 69th minute after Cheryshev laid on for Rodrigo but it was ruled out for offside and Messi soon completed his hat-trick. “I couldn’t imagine a debut like this. I know it’s Barcelona but we can’t give such an image (of ourselves),” Cheryshev, on loan from Real Madrid, said. “Like this we won’t go anywhere.” Suárez scored twice in the last seven minutes, a header from Adriano’s cross and a shot from Arda Turan’s square ball taking the Uruguayan’s tally to nine goals in five matches and 35 for the season. The second leg, in which Barcelona can afford to rest leading players, should be a mere formality in Valencia next Wednesday. The other semifinal is between Sevilla and Celta Vigo.