Coutinho scores first Barca goal, Suarez 8/10 in win vs. Valencia
A first Barcelona goal for Philippe Coutinho helped his side set up a Copa del Rey final against Sevilla thanks to a 2-0 win against Valencia.
Barca had a 1-0 lead going into Thursday's semifinal second leg and Coutinho's goal just after coming on as a substitute at half-time left the home side needing three goals to progress. That always looked unlikely and any slim hopes Valencia had of turning things around were ended when Ivan Rakitic added a second goal for the Catalans late on.
It's another final for Barcelona, their fifth in a row in the Copa del Rey and their 40th in total. Against Sevilla in April, they'll look to win it for the 30th time in their history and for the fourth time in a row. They really are the cup kings in Spain.
Ernesto Valverde will also have been delighted to see Coutinho net his first goal since his move for Liverpool, while there was also a first Barcelona appearance for Yerry Mina, an €11.8 million January signing from Palmeiras.
Barca will hope Gerard Pique isn't left to regret forcing his presence in this game. The defender injured his knee against Espanyol on Sunday but was still named in the starting lineup. He did not look fit, though, and may need to take a rest before the Champions League game against Chelsea later this month.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Valverde's tactics across the two legs were spot-on and completely nullified Marcelino's Valencia, who are having an impressive season despite a recent dip in results. Everything the Barca coach touches at the moment seems to turn to gold, such as Coutinho opening the scoring just four minutes after being thrown on.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jasper Cillessen, 8 -- Will have been relieved to have seen Rodrigo Moreno's first-half header crash back off the bar after looping over him. Made comfortable saves from Francis Coquelin and Rodrigo when called into action in the first half, but his show-stopping moment came after the break. Jose Gaya looked certain to score but Cillessen's glove appeared from nowhere to beat the ball away. It was an incredible save.
DF Sergi Roberto, 6 -- Linked well with Rakitic and Coutinho when he came on but struggled a little in the second half when Valencia introduced Goncalo Guedes.
DF Gerard Pique, 6 -- Injured his knee against Espanyol at the weekend and was rushed back to take his place in the starting lineup in Valencia. Didn't look fit and was regularly caught grimacing or clutching his injured knee.
DF Samuel Umtiti, 7 -- With Pique clearly struggling, he had to take on extra responsibility. Made a number of important blocks and dealt well with the Valencia attack.
DF Jordi Alba, 6 -- Didn't stop running to the point that in the 89th minute, he was the player chasing down a Messi through-ball in the final third. Rarely troubled in defence but not as effective in attack as he has been this season.
MF Sergio Busquets, 7 -- Read the game and controlled Barca's attacks. Another typical Busquets performance.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 8 -- Another brilliant display from Rakitic, who is excelling under Valverde. Knew when to attack and when to sit back and crowned his performance with a well-taken goal.
MF Andres Iniesta, 7 -- So intelligent on the ball once again in the hour he was on the pitch. At 33, he's still able to glide away from opposition players.
MF Andre Gomes, 5 -- Aside from one stray pass across his own box in the first half, he wasn't awful in the first half but he wasn't good, either. Didn't seem clear on what his role was and was dragged off at halftime for Coutinho.
FW Lionel Messi, 7 -- Appeared determined to decide the game on his own in the opening 20 minutes, looking dangerous every time he got on the ball. Came close to scoring via a free-kick but the headlines were eventually written by other players this time.
FW Luis Suarez, 8 -- Wonderfully created the opening goal, skimming his man before producing a perfect cross for former Liverpool teammate Coutinho. Then did equally as well to set up Rakitic for Barca's second goal, staying on his feet after being fouled to square for the Croatia international.
MF Philippe Coutinho, 7 -- Brought on at half-time and made an immediate impact, slotting home his first Barca goal in the 49th minute from a difficult angle.
MF Paulinho, 6 -- Introduced in place of Iniesta and helped Barca break with pace as they looked to kill the game off.
DF Yerry Mina, NR -- Came on for his debut in the final 10 minutes, replacing Pique. Will almost certainly start on Sunday against Getafe with Umtiti suspended.
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.