Valencia beats Barcelona 2-1 to win the Copa del Rey
SEVILLE, Spain (AP) - Valencia beat Barcelona 2-1 in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday, denying Lionel Messi the chance to lead his team to a fifth consecutive domestic cup title.
Strikers Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo Moreno scored after defensive errors by Barcelona in a first half dominated by Valencia.
Other than the defending of Gerard Pique, Barcelona was lifeless for long spells. Coach Ernesto Valverde made two substitutions at halftime and there was a lift in energy.
Messi tried to rally the side almost singlehandedly in the second half, and the club's all-time greatest scorer hit the woodwork before scoring in the 73rd minute when he put in a rebound of a save by Valencia goalkeeper Jaume Doménech.
But Messi's best effort to force added time was an off-target header with five minutes remaining.
Barcelona entered the final part of the season with hopes of a rare sweep of all three major titles in play. It succeeded in defending its Spanish league crown, but two weeks ago it collapsed in the second leg of the Champions League semifinals in a stunning 4-0 loss at Liverpool.
Now it has also lost its chance to add to its record 30 Copa del Rey titles. Barcelona had won the competition every year since losing the 2014 final to Real Madrid.
Messi had to settle on receiving the runner-up trophy as Barcelona captain from Spanish King Felipe VI in the stands of Benito Villamarín Stadium.
"Anytime you win a league title, you have to call it a good year," Pique said. "But given the expectations we had just two or three weeks ago, we were hoping to do much better and we finish the season with a bittersweet sensation.
"We are FC Barcelona and have the obligation to win all competitions. We have to congratulate Valencia and look to start next season even stronger."
It was Valencia's eighth Copa del Rey title and first since 2008.
Valencia's title caps celebrations of its 100th anniversary since its founding. After a poor start, it came on strong and set a club record with 17 matches in a row without a loss en route to reaching fourth place in the league to clinch a Champions league berth. It also made the Europa League semifinals before losing to Arsenal.
"I am so happy, I have been with the club for eight years and have been through some tough moments. This club deserves more moments like this," said a tearful Dani Parejo, who helped Valencia dictate the match until he had to be substituted for a right-leg injury.
With Luis Suárez and Ousmane Dembele injured, Valverde aligned Sergi Roberto, who normally plays at right back, next to Messi and an uninspired Philippe Coutinho.
The result was a toothless team that relied on Messi to generate almost all of its attack.
Valencia needed more than four minutes before it could complete consecutive passes, but its first attack was inches away from producing a goal if not for the timely intervention of Pique, who rushed back to clear Rodrigo's shot from the line.
There was no stopping Gameiro's shot from just inside the edge of the area in the 21st when Gabriel Paulista sent a long ball to José Gayá breaking unmarked down the left flank. Gayá found Gameiro, who used one touch to dodge the tackle of Jordi Alba before firing home.
With Barcelona in disarray, Rodrigo made it 2-0 in the 33rd when Parejo broke Barcelona's pressure, and launched Carlos Soler, who sprinted past Alba and sent a pin-point cross right to the head of Rodrigo.
Messi finally threatened for Barcelona just before the end of the first half, first drawing a one-handed save from Doménech then helping Ivan Rakitic also force Doménech to get low.
Barcelona improved after Valverde sent on midfielder Arturo Vidal and forward Malcom for the second half for Nelson Semedo and Arthur, who had both recently returned from injury.
Messi went close to pulling one back in the 56th after combining short passes with Malcom, flicking the ball past one defender, and using the outside edge of his left boot to fire the ball off the far post.
Messi halved the deficit when Doménech did well to parry a header by Clement Lenglet from a corner by Malcom. The ball then fell to Messi to finish off.
With Barcelona pressing forward searching for a late equalizer, Valencia's Goncalo Guedes wasted two excellent chances to score a third goal on the break.
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