Barcelona are through to a record ninth consecutive Copa del Rey semi-final after their finest performance of the season in a remarkable 6-1 win against Sevilla at Camp Nou. There were so many chances in this splendid game that it could have finished 8-4.
Despite going into this last eight second leg tie 2-0 down, Barcelona were not going to give up of this competition easily. The Catalans are the most successful team in Spain's main domestic cup competition, winning the last four editions. The last time they lifted the trophy was in May, after beating Sevilla in the final, so the Andalusians had every reason to feel vengeful as they came hoping to a protect their lead – one they deserved after controlling the first leg. There are few teams in world football who would be fancied to hold onto it, but Sevilla, fourth in La Liga and good enough in Europe last season to knock Manchester United out of the Uefa Champions League, are one of them. Sevilla have the quality, but their recent record at Camp Nou is poor, having lost their last four games there 3-0, 5-1, 5-0 and 4-0.
When the pressure is on, Barca usually deliver, especially at home. Starting with attacking intent, they soon moved up through the gears.
Twelve minutes in, they had their first chance with a penalty after Lionel Messi was fouled. Given his patchy penalty record, perhaps the Argentine was wise not to take it. He was definitely wise to encourage Philippe Coutinho, hitherto low on confidence, to step up. The Brazilian struck the ball hard and low to the right of Juan Soriano in the Sevilla goal, but Sevilla were still ahead 2-1 on aggregate.
A dangerous surge by Quincy Promes in the 23rd minute saw the Dutchman cross to Andre Silva, who backheeled towards goal. Jasper Cillessen pushed the ball onto the post and better was still to come from Barca’s second-choice goalkeeper.
Two minute later, Sevilla were awarded a penalty of their own after Gerard Pique fouled in his own area. This time, an Argentine did step up, but Ever Banega saw his spot kick saved after Cillenssen guessed correctly and dived to his left. The Dutchman, rated as the best No 2 goalkeeper in football by Catalans, then jumped up to urge on the 50,000 crowd. Camp Nou became alive and engrossed in this epic tie. Cillenseen should be a first-choice goalkeeper, even if it means a move away from Barcelona.
Barca made it 2-0 on the night and 2-2 on aggregate after 30 minutes. Seeing a gap develop ahead of him, Arthur hit a low pass which cut through eight Sevilla players towards Ivan Rakitic. Displaying excellent vision, the Brazilan midfielder, 22, fits perfectly into Barca's style and has been a major success since his transfer from Gremio. Rakitic touched the ball with his toe, redirecting it past Soriano. The Croatian , formerly of Sevilla, appeared apologetic rather than celebratory.
Barca were sublime and went ahead after 52 minutes, Coutinho diving to head a delicate cross from Luis Suarez past Soriano. Two minutes later it was 4-0 two minutes as Messi set up Sergi Roberto with a perfect pass which cut out three defenders. Yet another demonstration of his sublime skills.
Even then Sevilla had chances, Andre Silva glancing a header wide after 62 minutes. The visitors pulled a goal back through Guilherme Arana to make it 4-1 on the night and 4-3 on aggregate. But Barca showed no signs of nerves. Their fifth goal came after an 88th minute counter-attack which culminated in assist king Jordi Alba crossing to Suarez to convert.
The Catalans pushed on right till the end, while their fans sang for former manager Luis Enrique who sat watching in the stands. Barca’s final goal came in the 90th minute, a delicate one-two between Suarez and the excellent Pique before Messi – who else? – swept the ball in.
“We are Barca and we would never throw away the chance to win any of the big three competitions,” said Messi in a rare post match interview. "The people that came to the Camp Nou tonight has made the game even like a Champions League game. We were good today, and we continue.”
“We must win all titles that we can win since we are Barcelona,” agreed his manager Ernesto Valverde.
Perhaps the scoreline was harsh on Sevilla who were left stunned, as any team in would have been after playing against Barcelona at their absolute best.