Barcelona progress to King’s Cup semis

Madrid, January 28

Copa del Rey holders Barcelona had to weather a first-half storm from Athletic Bilbao before progressing to the semi-finals for the seventh consecutive season with a 3-1 win to seal a 5-2 aggregate victory.

Atletico Madrid failed to make the last four, though, as they conceded three goals for the first time in a year to lose 3-2 on the night and on aggregate to Celta Vigo.

Inaki Williams’s early strike for the visitors at the Camp Nou gave Athletic hope of exacting revenge for defeat in last season’s final to Barca.

However, the Basques failed to take a series of chances when on top before half-time and Barca responded in the second period thanks to goals from Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique and Neymar.

Williams signed a new long-term deal and showed more signs of his burgeoning talent with a cool finish from Aritz Aduriz’s fine through ball to register his 11th goal of the season.

Athletic should have then gone in front on aggregate when Javier Eraso turned Williams’s dangerous cross wide before Markel Susaeta also failed to hit the target from Aduriz’s knockdown.

Those misses were to prove crucial as Barca upped their game after the break as the star front three of Lionel Messi, Suarez and Neymar came alive.

Messi created the equaliser when he latched onto Sergi Roberto’s ball over the top and his low cross was slotted home at the back post by Suarez for his 30th goal.

Pique killed the tie off nine minutes from time when he rose to power home Dani Alves’s cross from the right.

And Neymar got his revenge for some rough treatment dished out by the Athletic defence when he skipped past Mikel San Jose before firing into the corner.

Barca meet Atletico on Saturday, but there is no chance of the sides meeting in Friday’s as Celta produced an upset at the Vicente Calderon thanks to Pablo Hernandez’s brace either side of John Guidetti’s strike.