Barcelona are through to the quarter finals of the Copa del Rey as they defeated Espanyol 2-0 at Estadi Cornella-El Prat for a dominating 6-1 aggregate victory.
Early chances at both ends failed to break the deadlock until Munir El Haddadi ran onto a clinical Messi pass, rounded the goalkeeper and finished with perfection.
Barcelona were in control of the Catalan derby throughout after that goal and defended impressively when it was needed most, finally sealing the victory late on with another Munir strike.
Here in this article we have tried to pick out the winners and losers from an eventful Catalan Derby.
Winner: Munir El Haddadi
Take everything else out of Munir El Haddadi’s playing time and performance in any fixture he has appeared, the majority of the criticism of him will be there loud and clear, he doesn’t score goals at the top level and doesn’t have the capability to add to the tally which a world-class attacking force already contributes to.
However after the Espanyol match last night a huge burden definitely will have lifted off his shoulders, as he produced some tricky movements, composure and awareness to score the opening goal, rounding the goalkeeper after a through pass from Messi and finishing clinically.
The young lad definitely worked hard throughout the match, and his endeavour was finally rewarded further with a late second goal.
Loser: Over aggression of Espanyol
Both the teams decided to leave a few divisive figures out of another ill-tempered match, not least as there were suspensions for some, but those who were present on the pitch still put everything into the fight, and one or two for Espanyol were not even shy about crossing the line once again.
A few individuals, like Salva, Abraham and Alvaro, showed over-the-top challenges, Felipe Caicedo went in unnecessarily and there were one or two dives trying desperately to get Barcelona players booked, too; and in the case of Aleix Vidal, it eventually worked.
Not only the players on field, were Espanyol’s supporters disappointingly sparse again.
Winner: Marc-Andre ter Stegen
Being the regular No. 2 shotstopper for Barcelona, all Marc-Andre ter Stegen can do is continue to impress in the cup fixtures where he is allowed to show his brilliance, and he did that yet again in front of a fearsome Espanyol.
As many as three times he denied Caicedo one-on-one, once particularly with an acrobatic outstretched leg, while he also made two outstanding saves and some important aerial interventions.
The German was really calm in possession, extraordinary with his distribution and was concentrated and professional throughout; everything he needs to be despite being a no.2.
Loser: Felipe Caicedo
Espanyol’s Equadorian striker Felipe Caicedo did his part well as an outlet, but his touch and finishing was non-existent most of the time despite getting into good positions inside Barcelona’s penalty area and final third in general. He didn’t manage to see off Ter Stegen a number of times and also lost out in physical battles against Jeremy Mathieu and Javier Mascherano on several occasions.
His strike rate is also not that impressive considering Espanyol don’t have too many options to contribute to the scoresheet, and although his team were almost out of this tie before the kick-off, Espanyol desperately needed better from him in such a big clash, especially after humiliated by Barcelona in the first leg.
Winner: Luis Enrique
It was certainly a tactical masterpiece. The Barcelona manager decided to rotate a number of his regular team members yet again, gave match time to Turan and Vidal, the two new additions to the first eleven and was ultimately able to rest two of his more inflammatory individuals, Neymar and Gerard Pique, out of action entirely.
The tie was actually won in the first leg, of course, so it was with enough confidence and composure at its best that Luis Enrique’s boys came through this second leg, and they continue their dream run all the way towards what the whole team hope will be one more final appearance and shot at silverware.
Interestingly, the Spanish tactician has won every competition he has entered since taking charge at Barcelona, only with the exception of Spanish Super Copa. He will also want to keep his glorious run going on in Copa del Rey at least.