Messi 8/10 as Barcelona’s creator-in-chief in commanding Copa del Rey win over Leganes

Messi 8/10 as Barcelona’s creator-in-chief in commanding Copa del Rey win over Leganes

BARCELONA, Spain — Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona moved into the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey with a convincing 5-0 win against Leganes at Camp Nou on Thursday.

Antoine Griezmann set the tone for the evening with a fourth-minute strike as Quique Setien’s side bounced back from Saturday’s league defeat at Valencia to make it three wins from four games under their new coach. Clement Lenglet headed in the second before half-time, with two Messi goals sandwiching an effort from substitute Arthur after the break as Barca eased into the last eight.

Positives

Barca have been scrambling round in search for a new striker this week with Luis Suarez out for four months. With the transfer window closing on Friday, though, they have been unable to get a deal over the line. Luckily, they may already have the solution in their ranks in Griezmann. The Frenchman looked good through the middle and with Messi, Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele to flank him, there’s no need to move him back to the left. If he can keep scoring, you can bank on Messi to keep chipping away, too.

Griezmann’s early goal here meant Barca’s involvement in this year’s Copa never looked in doubt against Leganes. The Catalans have made the final in each of the past six seasons, winning it four of those times, and are in a good position to go all the way again this term.

Negatives

Barca’s soft underbelly was again on show in the first half. They allowed Leganes seven shots in the first half, although the Madrid side’s finishing let them down. Better teams will punish them — and have.

Manager rating out of 10

6 — Setien reverted back to a four-man defence having experimented with a back three in his first three games. Barca gave up a little bit of control as a result but looked much more sure of themselves in attack.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 6 — Leganes had their moments but their better chances didn’t find the target. Two flashed just wide in the first half and most of Ter Stegen’s best work came with his feet exchanging passes with his defence.

DF Nelson Semedo, 7 — Produced two big moments in the first half. The first was the assist for Griezmann’s opener and the second was a recovery run to cancel out a Leganes break. Efficient at both ends.

DF Gerard Pique, 6 — Didn’t have the easiest night but didn’t do a lot wrong, restricting Leganes’ best chances to shots from distance or tight angles.

DF Clement Lenglet, 7 — Had already connected with two Messi set plays when he flicked a third past Ivan Cuellar to double Barca’s lead in the first half. Will hope to have done enough to dislodge Samuel Umtiti, who’s played the past two league games, from the side.

DF Jordi Alba, 6 — Sharing the left flank with Ansu, he still tried to get forward and flashed one cross-cum-shot just wide of the post in the first half.

MF Sergio Busquets, 5 — Complacent at times and gave the ball away in his own half three times in the first 30 minutes. The trend continued throughout the game.

MF Frenkie de Jong, 6 — Has taken a few steps back in recent weeks. Doesn’t look completely sure what his role is in the team at the moment, although he still had some good moments and will get better.

MF Arturo Vidal, 6 — A lot of energy and a few nice link-ups with Messi, but didn’t do enough to guarantee his place in the midfield moving forward.

FW Lionel Messi, 8 — Involved in all five goals: fed Semedo to tee up Griezmann; delivered the corner that Lenglet headed in; scored the third; his blocked shot led to Arthur’s goal; scored the fifth. That’s 500 wins in Barcelona colours.

FW Antoine Griezmann, 7 — Played with a smile on his face in a central role after spending most of his debut campaign at Camp Nou on the left. Opened the scoring in the fourth minute with a well-taken finish and could have had a second but for a deflection taking his shot narrowly wide.

FW Ansu Fati, 6 — The 17-year-old has started all four games under Setien. This was perhaps his best performance, though. Looked better suited to playing as the left forward in a 4-3-3 than he had done to playing as a right-wing-back in the first three games. Should have scored in the second half; luckily Arthur was on hand to turn in the rebound (via a Messi miss).

Substitutes

MF Ivan Rakitic, 6 — Produced a lovely pass for Messi’s second goal.

DF Junior Firpo, 6 — Not heavily involved after replacing Alba in the second half.

MF Arthur, 6 — Got on the scoresheet but gave up possession too easily.

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