Madrid, May 23 (IANS) A goal from defender Jordi Alba in the first period of extra time and a strike from Neymar in the 123rd minute gave Barcelona a 2-0 win over Sevilla in the Spanish King’s Cup final to complete the Catalan football giants’ second league and cup double in two years.
It was far from a typical performance from Barcelona, who on Sunday had to play for 55 minutes with a footballer less than their rivals, but showed their resilient side when things looked their most difficult, reports Xinhua.
The first half saw lots of frantic activity but few clear chances apart from a Luis Suarez snapshot which went wide and a long-range effort from Dani Alves for Barcelona, while at the other end Sergio Escudero’s whipped cross had to be scrambled clear by Barcelona keeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, and Coke sliced wide when he could have done better.
The game changed dramatically 10 minutes before the break when Barcelona were reduced to 10 men after Javier Mascherano was sent off for pulling down Sevilla striker Kevin Gameiro when he was the last defender.
Ever Banega saw Stegen tip the resulting free kick over the bar while Sergio Busquets dropped into defense for Barcelona before Jeremy Mathieu replaced Ivan Rakitic at the start of the second half.
Playing against 10 men, Sevilla started the second half brightly and Banega rattled the Barcelona post from outside of the area before things went from bad to worse for the Catalans as Suarez had to be replaced by Rafinha after injuring his right hamstring.
Barcelona were on the back foot as Sevilla scented victory as the Catalans lost possession time and again to Sevilla’s incessant pressure, which was kept at bay partly by a magnificent display by Barcelona defender Gerard Pique.
The game evened out in the 89th minute when Banega was sent off for bringing down Neymar, who had been put through on goal by Lionel Messi.
Barcelona took the lead six minutes into the second half from full back Alba, whose left foot shot beat Sergio Rico on his far post after another brilliant Messi pass.
Rico then saved Sevilla three times with stops to deny Messi, Pique and Alves as Barcelona cast off their second half shackles and looked to kill off the game.
The second period of extra time tested the endurance of all of the footballers and also the referee, who needed treatment for a muscle problem, but Neymar confirmed Barcelona’s title with the time up following yet another pass from Messi.