Barcelona beat Villarreal in Copa del Rey semi first leg


Barcelona took charge of their Copa del Rey semifinal against Villarreal with a 3-1 win in the first leg at the Nou Camp. The Yellow Submarine drew level shortly after halftime, with Manu Trigueros cancelling out Lionel Messi's opener just before the break. But goals from Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique gave the Catalan giants a comfortable cushion heading into the second leg in three weeks' time. Their lead could have been even greater but Neymar saw his 71st-minute spot-kick saved. Luis Enrique's men started brightly, passing the ball around with plenty of intent, but Villarreal's defence held firm in the early going. The hosts thought they had opened the scoring on the half hour when Jeremy Mathieu found the net, but the French defender was deemed to be in an offside position. They would eventually go ahead four minutes before the break as Villarreal were robbed in possession by Luis Suarez, who worked his way into the area and teed up Messi to finish. Despite dominating proceedings, including having 72 percent possession in the first half, Barca were pegged back within three minutes of the restart as Trigueros' long drive weaved its way past Marc-Andre ter Stegen. But Barca pulled ahead once more almost immediately after through Iniesta's superb finish, and they increased their lead in the 64th minute when Pique headed home from a corner. It very nearly got worse for Villarreal as Mateo Musacchio's handball in the area gave Neymar a chance to put Barca out of sight but the Brazil forward's spot-kick was saved by goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo, who gave his side a lifeline heading into the second leg. Athletic Bilbao and Espanyol will go into their second leg with everything still to play for after a 1-1 draw at San Mames. Aritz Aduriz put hosts Bilbao in front after 11 minutes, his third goal in this season's competition, but Victor Sanchez levelled matters in the 35th minute. Neither side could find a winner in the second half to give themselves the edge for the return match and it finished all square.