TStv Africa

TStv Africa

Lionel Messi inspired Barcelona to a 2-0 victory over Espanyol, sealing a 2-1 aggregate success and a place in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey as Philippe Coutinho made his debut off the bench.

Barca trailed 1-0 from the opening leg after Oscar Melendo's late finish, but there was little danger of Ernesto Valverde's men following Real Madrid in crashing out of the tournament.

Almost 80,000 fans at Camp Nou waved goodbye to Javier Mascherano pre-match, and Barca made a terrific start in the Catalan derby - Luis Suarez swiftly erasing the first-leg deficit with a header from a fine right-wing Aleix Vidal cross.

Espanyol wasted chances to reclaim the initiative and Messi came up with the key goal, although his shot needed a touch off Naldo to wrongfoot goalkeeper Pau Lopez, before Coutinho was introduced by Ernesto Valverde for a bright 22-minute cameo.

Messi hit the post late on, but Barca - winners of the Copa del Rey in each of the last three seasons - remain in with a chance of matching the four straight titles won by Athletic Bilbao in the 1930s.

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