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???? Messi free-kick sends Barcelona into Copa del Rey quarter-finals
Published in Alriyadh on 12 - 01 - 2017

A second half free-kick from Leo Messi gave Barcelona a 4-3 aggregate win over Athletic Bilbao and a passage into the Copa del Rey quarter-finals on Wednesday at the Nou Camp.
Luis Suarez put Barcelona ahead on the night with a volley from Neymar's cross in the 35th minute.
It was his 100th goal in 120 games for the club and it leveled the tie at 2-2 on aggregate after the first leg had ended 2-1 to Athletic.
Neymar was brought down in the area by Eneko Boveda at the start of the second half and the Brazilian took the spot kick himself to put Barcelona 2-0 up on the night and 3-2 ahead on aggregate.
Barcelona looked in control of the tie but in the 51st minute Enric Saborit headed in Gorka Elustondo's cross to make 3-3 on aggregate.
The game seemed to be heading for extra-time when Suarez was fouled on the edge of the area and Messi buried the free-kick to send Barcelona through.
It was his third free-kick goal of 2017 so far and the 31st of his career.
Asked if he thought Messi should have his contract renewed at any cost Luis Enrique said after the game: "I don't know anything about numbers; I know about football and he was decisive again tonight".
Asked if his incredible free-kick strike rate reminded him of any other player, Luis Enrique added: "He is better than everyone else, so no, he doesn't remind me of anyone".
"SOCCER FC"
Despite Messi's goal it was still a narrow one-goal lead that Barcelona took into the closing stages of the game and the Barcelona coach added: "It was a dangerous position at the end because one more goal from them would have knocked us out.
"We are on a run of allowing teams to score against us from very few chances."
Athletic Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde took scant consolation from the close scoreline.
He said: "The truth is, they were better than us. We knew we would have to score because it's very unlikely that Barcelona don't score at home.
"We got our goal but it was not enough. Messi had two free-kicks in the first half and we gave him a third opportunity."
In the earlier cup games, Wednesday, Real Sociedad made it to the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey for only the second time in the last 20 years with a 1-1 draw away to Villarreal that sent them through 4-1 on aggregate.
Mikel Oiarzabal scored the opener for Real Sociedad. Roberto Soriano made it 1-1 but Villarreal, who had Nicola Sansone sent-off, could not complete the comeback.
Elsewhere Alcorcon made it into the last eight at the expense of fellow second tier side Cordoba and Alaves knocked-out Deportivo.
On Thursday Real Madrid defend their 3-0 first leg lead away to Sevilla, Celta Vigo defend their 4-1 advantage at home to Valencia, and Eibar visit Osasuna with a 3-0 first leg result in their favour.


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