Barcelona sets club record of 29 straight games without loss
ABS-CBN Sports on Feb 11, 2016 11:19 AM
Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic duels for the ball with Valencia's Ruben Vezo during a semifinal, second leg, Copa del Rey soccer match between Valencia and Barcelona, at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, Spain, Wednesday Feb. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)
TALES AZZONI, AP Sports Writer
MADRID (AP) — Barcelona broke the club record with its 29th consecutive unbeaten game when its second-stringers salvaged a 1-1 draw against Valencia in the Copa del Rey semifinals on Wednesday.
Barcelona reached its third straight Copa final 8-1 on aggregate after it won the first leg 7-0 at the Camp Nou last week.
Striker Alvaro Negredo gave Valencia the lead in a breakaway before halftime, but Cameroon-born youngster Wilfrid Kaptoum, a member of Barcelona's B team, equalized in the 84th, two minutes into his senior debut.
Barcelona eclipsed the record it shared with Pep Guardiola's 2011 squad, despite playing without nearly all of its regular starters at Mestalla Stadium in Valencia, including Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar. Coach Luis Enrique used youngsters, with Ivan Rakitic the only experienced starter.
"Honestly, the record wasn't our main goal," Rakitic said. "We are happy, but the most important thing is to win titles at the end of the season. We would all exchange the record for titles."
The draw should increase pressure on Valencia coach Gary Neville, the former England defender who has been struggling in his first head-coaching job. He also used second-stringers in his squad, resting some of the starters for the Spanish league game against Espanyol on Saturday.
Barcelona will likely play the final against Sevilla, which holds a four-goal lead over Celta going into Thursday's second leg in Vigo. It will be Barcelona's sixth Copa del Rey final in the last eight seasons.
"We are thrilled to make it to another final," Enrique said. "Our fans are getting spoiled, just look at the number of Copa finals that we've played in the last few years. It tells a lot about this club's capacity to reinvent itself, it tells a lot about the type of players that we have."
Enrique's team hasn't lost since a 2-1 defeat at Sevilla in the seventh round of the Spanish league in October. It was trying to win its 11th in a row on Wednesday.
Guardiola's steak ended with a 3-1 loss at Real Betis in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. His team won 23 games and drew five, scoring 85 goals and conceding 14.
Enrique's squad has won 23 games and drawn six, scoring 87 and conceding 15.
The Barcelona team coached by Rinus Michels and including Johan Cruyff in the 1973-74 season, won 27 straight games.
Negredo opened the scoring after entering the area free from markers. He found the net after his initial shot was partially blocked by Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen. The late equalizer by the 19-year-old Kaptoum came with a close-range shot after a low cross by Juan Camara.
Valencia had lost three straight games. It hasn't won in the Spanish league in 12 rounds, nine of those under the command of Neville.
"It's a small step to try to regain some confidence and keep us in the right direction to turn things around," Valencia forward Pablo Piatti said. "We are disappointed, the team hasn't met expectations so far."
Only about 16,000 fans showed up at the 55,000-seat Mestalla. A supporter held a banner that read: "Bye bye, Neville."
"I'm thankful for the fans who came to the stadium. Some didn't want to come and that was their right," Neville said. "We weren't playing under the best circumstances after what happened (in the first leg) last week, but the players played with dignity. We deserved to win."