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Messi seals Copa Del Rey victory for Barcelona
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Messi seals Copa Del Rey victory for Barcelona

Fola Akintomide

Lionel Messi scored an outrageous solo goal as La Liga champions Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao to win the Copa del Rey and edge closer to the treble.

The four-time world player of the year lit up the Nou Camp when he evaded numerous challenges on the right wing and then surged into the area before firing home a firm, low shot.

Neymar tapped in his 38th goal this campaign, before Messi scored his 58th with the outside of his boot.

Inaki Williams headed in late on.

That effort in the 79th minute was a small blip in an otherwise superb performance by Luis Enrique’s side at their home, the Nou Camp.

A repeat display against Juventus in next week’s Champions League final will almost certainly see them complete their second ever continental treble, having become the first La Liga side to do so in 2009.

On Saturday there were many fantastic moments of Barca interplay, but the highlight of the match, and maybe the Spanish season, involved just one player – Messi.

The 27-year-old Argentina forward started on the right and surrounded by Athletic players in the lead up to the opening goal, but managed to squeeze through a gap, sprint into the box, shift the ball past one more defender before striking a shot low past goalkeeper Iago Herrerin.

“Leo is spectacular, he is a star,” said Neymar.

“For me he is the best in the world and it is an honour to be part of this team with players of such quality.”

If that was an individual goal of the highest standard, then Neymar’s was a team goal of equal quality.

Quick passing around the area between Messi and Ivan Rakitic ended with Luis Suarez squaring the ball to Neymar to slot in. It was another goal for the Brazilian in what has been a superb debut season at Barcelona.

Messi scored his second of the night and his 58th this season with a stunning close-range finish after the break which meant he, Suarez and Neymar have now scored 120 goals in all competitions for the Catalan club this campaign.

Barca took a more relaxed approach in the last 15 minutes, and Athletic – 23-time winners of the competition – made the most of their opportunity when Williams headed in from six yards out.

Xavi came on as a late substitute in his final appearance for Barcelona at the Nou Camp. And the Spaniard, who will be ending a 17-year association, almost scored a fourth when his brilliant free-kick struck the post.