Barcelona hold off Espanyol as Coutinho debuts in Copa win
Barcelona 2 - 0 Espanyol

Barcelona hold off Espanyol as Coutinho debuts in Copa win

25/01/2018

Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi scored the goals as Barcelona's established stars kept new signing Philippe Coutinho out of the limelight in qualifying for the semifinals of the Copa del Rey with a 2-0 win over city rivals Espanyol.

Barcelona were behind after the first leg but went through 2-1 on aggregate thanks to first-half goals from Suarez and Messi.

They join Valencia, Sevilla and Leganes in the last four, the latter after they had dumped Real Madrid out of the competition on Wednesday evening.

Barcelona, keen to reverse the 1-0 scoreline from the first leg, began the game with intent, forcing a series of early corners.

Suarez proved too keen and was shown the first yellow card of the game seven minutes in after a clash with Marc Navarro.

But a minute later the Uruguayan made amends as he gave the home side the lead, drawing them level on aggregate in the tie. Aleix Vidal created the chance and his cross from the right was headed in by Suarez at the far post.

Espanyol almost hit back straight away but Jasper Cillessen was able to save a shot from Gerard Moreno, who had been set up by Sergi Darder.

Barcelona looked to press their advantage but Messi's shot from 40 yards, with 19 minutes on the clock, was high and wide of the Espanyol goal.

The visitors' Esteban Granero wasted a chance, from Victor Sanchez's cross, when he shot wide of the goal from inside the area four minutes later.

And just a minute later Messi extended Barcelona's lead and put them ahead in the tie for the first time when his shot from outside the area beat Pau Lopez in the Espanyol goal.

The Argentinian's goal was the 4,000th scored by Barcelona at the Nou Camp in official competitions.

Suarez then had a shot blocked, again following good work by Vidal, as the home side looked for a third in an attempt to kill the game off before the break.

Messi was denied the chance to add to his tally when he was flagged offside when running on to a through ball from Sergio Busquets just before half-time.

Espanyol made a change at the break with Leo Baptistao coming on for Darder and it almost paid off at the start of the second half.

The Brazilian striker's shot was heading for the bottom corner but was saved by Cillessen.

Moreno shot off target as Espanyol tried to force their way back into the game with 66 minutes gone.

A minute later Coutinho made his Barcelona bow as a replacement for Andres Iniesta.

The Brazilian's protracted move from Liverpool finally went through earlier this month and he was able to return to the Nou Camp, where he last played in 2012 when he was on loan at Espanyol from Inter Milan.

He was quickly welcomed by Espanyol's Sergio Garcia who received a booking for his challenge.

Coutinho then set up Suarez for an effort which was saved by Lopez, the Espanyol keeper also denying Ivan Rakitic shortly after.

Messi and Suarez missed chances in quick succession, the latter set up by the lively Coutinho.

With three minutes to go Messi's header came back off the post from Rakitic's cross.

But Barcelona had already done enough to reach the semi-finals courtesy of strikes for Suarez and Messi.

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