Barcelona beats Espanyol 2-0 to reach Copa quarter
BARCELONA, Spain — Munir El Haddadi scored both goals as Barcelona beat Espanyol 2-0 on Wednesday to ease into the Copa del Rey’s quarterfinals with a 6-1 victory on aggregate.
Lionel Messi, two days after collecting his record fifth Ballon d’Or award, played El Haddadi through with a long pass to score Barcelona’s opener in the 32nd minute.
The 20-year-old El Haddadi netted his second with two minutes left.
“This is good for Munir, the fact that he participated in many facets today,” coach Luis Enrique said about the little-used forward. “He has a knack for scoring.”
After two ill-tempered derbies in the past two weeks— a 0-0 draw in the Spanish league before Barcelona’a 4-1 first-leg win that featured 20 yellow cards and two reds— the return match at RCDE Stadium was a tame affair, only brought to life by Messi.
“Today we saw a much calmer match, perhaps in part because the result was difficult to overcome, but this has been talked about too much,” Luis Enrique said.
While the defending champions moved on, so did last year’s finalist, Athletic Bilbao.
Bilbao got a first-half goal from Inaki Williams to win 1-0 at Villarreal and advance 4-2 on aggregate.
Celta Vigo finished off third-tier Cadiz 2-0 to advance with a 5-0 victory over two legs, while Las Palmas beat Eibar 3-2, matching the score from its first-leg victory.
In Barcelona, almost all the players who participated in the most heated exchanges from the first leg — which Espanyol ended with nine men and was followed with a verbal confrontation in the Camp Nou tunnel — didn’t start on Wednesday.
Barcelona was already without Luis Suarez, suspended for two matches for his insults directed at Espanyol’s players, and Luis Enrique left Neymar and Gerard Pique on the bench. Pique had taunted Espanyol’s fans after the first leg.
Neymar, meanwhile, was rested hours after a judge summoned him for questioning in an investigation into the Brazil striker’s transfer from Santos to Barcelona in 2013.
Messi had the game’s first two shots on goal, both turned back by Francesco Bardi.
But the Italian goalkeeper could do nothing to stop El Haddadi after he received Messi’s pass, dribbled past him and chipped the ball home.
Tempers briefly flared when Felipe Caicedo stepped on the foot of Barcelona goalie Marc-Andre ter Stegen, but calm was restored shortly before Ter Stegen saved Caicedo’s shot in a one-on-one opportunity before halftime.
El Haddadi capped a lifeless second half when he steered in Aleix Vidal’s cross after Ardau Turan had played the winger wide.