Wednesday, February 8, 2017 8:31 am
Luis Suarez scored and was sent off as nine-man FC Barcelona held on to reach the Copa del Rey final with a thrilling 3-2 aggregate victory over 10-man Atletico Madrid.
Suarez tapped in on 43 minutes at the Nou Camp, before FC Barcelona’s Sergi Roberto and Atletico’s Yannick Carrasco were sent off for receiving two yellow cards each.
Substitute Kevin Gameiro then missed a penalty kick before equalising late on.
Suarez was then shown a second yellow card and will therefore miss the final match.
Antoine Griezmann had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside when Atletico had a man advantage, while Lionel Messi also hit the bar with a brilliant free-kick in a frantic second half.
Holders FC Barcelona will now meet either Alaves or Celta Vigo in the final, with those sides playing the second leg of their semi-final tie on Wednesday.
Luis Enrique’s decision to play Messi was ultimately vindicated as the talismanic striker avoided the yellow card which would have ruled him out of the final match.
But Suarez’s suspension will come as a shock, with the Uruguay striker picking up two yellow cards in the final three minutes.
The first was a clear foul but Suarez was perhaps right to feel aggrieved at the second, with Koke making the most of their aerial collision.
But the deed had been done as referee Jesus Manzano produced his third red card of the evening.
The other two dismissals were less controversial, Roberto committing a daft foul when already on a caution, just as Aleix Vidal was being readied to replace the right-back on 57 minutes.
Carrasco’s second clumsy foul 12 minutes later was similarly ill-advised, opening up the game and leaving Atletico vulnerable to an FC Barcelona side previously in retreat.
Yet even with Carrasco’s dismissal, the visitors will feel they squandered plenty of clear opportunities to take Barca to extra time or even completely overturn the 2-1 first-leg deficit.
They dominated the early stages, playing with an intensity that rattled the hosts, and Carrasco and Savic both missed decent chances.
But this was before goalkeeper Miguel Moya parried Messi’s effort straight into Suarez’s path for the opener.
FC Barcelona were then able to slow the pace of the game to suit their style, with Atletico unable to trouble them for long periods before a remarkable final half-hour.
Gameiro struck a poor penalty kick attempt against the bar, before tapping in Griezmann’s squared pass for the equaliser minutes later.
And although Atletico will point to the incorrect decision to rule out Griezmann’s fine finish, FC Barcelona ultimately showed enough resolve to progress.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Barca will now attempt to win a third straight Copa del Rey.(NAN)