Barcelona Beats Sevilla to Win the Copa del Rey Title

Spain’s Copa del Rey final between Barcelona and Sevilla took place Sunday amid heightened police security and political tensions, following an attempt to ban Catalan flags from Vicente Calderón Stadium.


But in the end, the match was not mired by any incident involving fans. It instead turned into a bruising final, which Barcelona won, 2-0, in extra time after three players were sent off. By winning the Copa del Rey, or King’s Cup, Barcelona secured another domestic double, a week after winning La Liga.

While Sevilla ended worn down and with only nine players, it dominated much of a game in which it long held a numerical advantage, after Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano was sent off for a grabbing foul after 35 minutes.

In the final minutes of regulation, however, Barcelona regained its composure after Sevilla also lost a player, when Éver Banega was sent off for hacking Neymar just outside the penalty box.

Earlier in the week, the final was overshadowed by a political feud triggered when authorities in Madrid tried to stop Catalan fans from displaying the Estelada, a flag that has come to symbolize Catalonia’s push for independence from the rest of Spain.
Barcelona Beats Sevilla to Win the Copa del Rey Title
The flag ban, however, was overruled on Friday by a judge in Madrid, and Barcelona’s fans filled their half of the stadium with Esteladas. In addition, helping to defuse the tension, the two teams took to the field by forming a guard of honor for each other, celebrating their recent trophies.

While Barcelona won La Liga, Sevilla lifted an unprecedented third consecutive Europa League trophy on Wednesday by beating Liverpool, 3-1.

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And even though Catalan fans then booed the Spanish national anthem, the jeering was offset by Sevilla’s fans, who responded with rapturous applause while Spain’s royal couple, King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia, watched stoically alongside an array of politicians.

Only four days after returning from its Europa League victory in Basel, Switzerland, Sevilla started the game on the front foot, showing no sign of being physically diminished by its heavy match schedule. In fact, Barcelona’s trident of superstar forwards rarely threatened in the first half, apart from an early opportunity squandered by Luis Suárez, who mis-hit his shot after receiving a perfect lobbed pass from Andrés Iniesta.

And then, in the 35th minute, the Catalan team was left without Mascherano, who received a red card after holding back Kévin Gameiro by the shirt as Gameiro was making a clear run on goal. On the resulting free kick, Banega curled the ball above Barcelona’s defensive wall, but it was brilliantly tipped over the bar by goaltender Marc-André ter Stegen.

Sevilla also started the second half brightly. After 49 minutes, Banega hit a strong shot off the post, with ter Stegen well beaten.

After 55 minutes, Barcelona suffered another blow when Suárez was also forced to leave the field, after apparently injuring a leg muscle while trying to control the ball.

With Barcelona’s top scorer injured and forced to watch in tears from the bench, Sevilla took charge, and its fans redoubled their singing. But Sevilla’s dominance translated into few clear chances, and the game turned into a messy affair, with the referee producing a flurry of yellow cards. Within two minutes, he booked Neymar, Iniesta and Dani Alves for fouls or protests. But it was eventually a Sevilla player, Banega, who was red-carded, for bringing down Neymar.
Each team started extra time with only 10 players, and it was Barcelona that eventually broke the deadlock seven minutes in when Jordi Alba ran onto a long pass from Lionel Messi. Alba timed his shot perfectly, low and across the goal face, leaving Sergio Rico stranded. After Sevilla lost another player, Daniel Carriço, for a foul on Messi followed by a protest, Messi produced another decisive pass, this time for Neymar, who scored the final goal.

It was not a night of flowing soccer, but at least one when tensions stayed on the field.

And while two Madrid teams will face off next weekend in the Champions League final — Real vs. Atlético — Barcelona’s victory Sunday allowed the Catalan club to reaffirm its dominance over Spanish soccer.

“Winning this title makes for a magnificent season,” said Iniesta, Barcelona’s captain.
Source: www.nytimes.com

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