Coutinho scores as Barcelona reaches 5th straight Copa final
ABS-CBN Sports on Feb 09, 2018 08:54 AM
FC Barcelona's Philippe Coutinho, center, is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal against Valencia during the Spanish Copa del Rey, semifinal, second leg, soccer match between FC Barcelona and Valencia at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, Spain, Thursday Feb. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)
By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press
MADRID (AP) — Another year, another Copa del Rey final for Barcelona.
Philippe Coutinho scored his first goal since leaving Liverpool as Barcelona defeated Valencia 2-0 Thursday to reach the Copa final for the fifth straight season.
Ivan Rakitic also scored in the second leg of the semifinals, giving Barcelona a 3-0 win on aggregate after a 1-0 victory in the opener at Camp Nou Stadium.
The three-time defending champions next face Sevilla in a repeat of the 2016 final.
Sevilla eliminated Leganes 3-1 on aggregate on Wednesday.
"It's not an easy feat to make it to the final this many times in a row," Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. "We knew it wasn't going to be easy."
Valencia posed a tough challenge for Barcelona, creating some significant scoring chances at Mestalla Stadium, but the visitors opened the scoring in the 49th minute after Luis Suarez raced past a defender inside the area before crossing the ball to Coutinho. The Brazilian playmaker, Barcelona's most expensive signing, slid to reach the ball and sent it toward the far corner.
Coutinho, making his fifth appearance since being signed in January, had only entered the match at halftime.
"It's a special moment for me," Coutinho said. "I had been trying to score this first goal. I finally got it today and it helped the team advance to the final."
Suarez also set up the second goal, finding Rakitic for an easy shot from inside the area after a breakaway in the 82nd minute.
Valencia forward Rodrigo hit the woodwork early in the match.
"We had our chances," Valencia coach Marcelino Garcia Toral said. "But they were superior. We competed well but we are not at the same level right now."
It was the sixth straight loss for Valencia in all competitions.
"It hurts because we had high expectations coming into this match," Valencia goalkeeper Jaume Domenech said. "But it wasn't meant to be. We need to work harder to try to turn things around."
Valencia was attempting to make it to the Copa final for the first time since 2007-08, when it won its seventh title after eliminating Barcelona in the semifinals.
Barcelona, which has won the tournament a record 29 times, had eliminated Valencia in the semifinals two years ago, winning 7-0 at Camp Nou in the first leg. It then held on to a 1-1 draw at Mestalla with its second-stringers.
Colombian defender Yerry Mina made his Barcelona debut on Thursday by replacing Gerard Pique late in the match. Pique had been listed as doubtful because of a knee injury.