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Lionel Messi Inspires Barcelona to Copa Del Rey victory against Alaves
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Lionel Messi Inspires Barcelona to Copa Del Rey victory against Alaves

Willy Bantu

Lionel Messi produced yet another masterclass as Barcelona marked the end of Luis Enrique’s Camp Nou reign by lifting the Copa del Rey.

Lionel Messi Inspires Barcelona to Copa Del Rey victory against Alaves

Barcelona became the first team since the early 1950s to lift the cup three seasons running as Messi masterminded a 3-1 victory at the final game to be staged at Atlético Madrid’s Vicente Calderón home.

Lionel Messi Inspires Barcelona to Copa Del Rey victory against Alaves

Messi set Barcelona on their way with his 54th goal of the season and Neymar and Paco Alcácer were also on target in the first half, with Theo Hernández offering Alavés brief hope with a wonderful free-kick.

Lionel Messi Inspires Barcelona to Copa Del Rey victory against Alaves

Alavés had waited 96 years to reach a Copa del Rey final, and they did not disgrace themselves at the end of a season in which they finished ninth in La Liga after winning promotion.

But, as is so often the case, they had no answer to the brilliance of Messi and, after a season in which Barcelona have fallen short of their high standards, the favourites ended with a trophy. A ninth piece of silverware was a fitting end to Enrique’s three-year spell in charge of Barcelona.

Lionel Messi Inspires Barcelona to Copa Del Rey victory against Alaves

Barcelona made the most of their good fortune to take the lead three minutes later on the half-hour mark. Messi played a clever one-two with Neymar before curling the ball into the corner of the net from 18 yards.

But Alavés equalised within three minutes as Hernández, on loan from Atlético and on familiar turf, struck a sensational 25-yard free-kick past Cillessen.

Lionel Messi Inspires Barcelona to Copa Del Rey victory against Alaves

Worse was to come for Alavés in the third minute of stoppage time as Messi dribbled his way past several defenders before allowing Alcácer to finish neatly.

Barcelona saw the game out to claim a third straight Copa del Rey and some tangible reward after Real Madrid’s La Liga triumph.