Copa del Rey: MSN Back To Scoring Height

Barca are through to the quarterfinals of the 2016-17 Copa del Rey with a 3-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday night at the Camp Nou.Goals from the MSN trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar earned Barcelona the 4-3 aggregate win in the Round of 16 tie against the Basques, whose lone goal came from Enric Saborit. 

The victory snapped Barcelona's two-match winless streak to start 2017, and it also marked Suarez's 100th goal in a Barcelona shirt, which also happened to be the 300th goal for the MSN.But the hero on the day for the Catalonians was Messi. The Argentine converted an extraordinary free kick that broke the 3-3 aggregate score and sent the cup holders to the next round.Manager Luis Enrique made a couple notable changes, namely Jasper Cillessen filling in for Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal and Rafinha starting ahead of Ivan Rakitic and Andre Gomes in goal. 

As for the visitors, Ernesto Valverde surprisingly left striker Aritz Aduriz on the bench at the start.The sleepy start to the match was to Athletic's favour. The Basques were able to get forward into Barcelona's half while still keeping their defensive shape against a Barcelona attack that still had not scored from the run of play in 2017.With so much talk about referees before the match in light of Gerard Pique's recent comments, the spotlight was on the match officials on Wednesday and they only increased the anger level inside the Camp Nou when the linesman annulled a Suarez goal for offside in the 26th minute. 

Replays revealed that the Uruguayan was indeed onside and that the goal should have stood.While the intensity level inside the stadium was ratcheted up after the botched call, the rhythm of play was choppy and inconsistent. Barcelona were unable to get into their groove; Athletic were physical and their tactical fouls frustrated Barcelona.Nevertheless, the Catalonians overcame that obstacle and secured the goal that gave them the edge in the tie through Suarez. 

A Neymar cross from the left reached Suarez, who thundered a volley back across goal that went searing past Athletic goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz and into the net to give Suarez a 1-0 lead in the match and a 2-2 lead in the tie thanks to their away goal in the San Mames.Valverde made a change to start the second half, bringing on Aduriz for Sabin, but it was Barcelona who could not have asked for a better start to the second 45 minutes. 

Neymar drew a penalty just seconds after the re-start when he was brought down by Elustondo in the area, and the Brazilian converted the spot kick himself to extend Barcelona's lead to 2-0 in the match and 3-2 on aggregate.Inexplicably, the Barcelona defence went to sleep after the Neymar goal, even though Athletic were just a goal away from evening the tie. Luis Enrique's team paid dearly for their inattention as Saborit made it 2-1 in the match and 3-3 on aggregate when he headed in an Elustondo cross.

The Saborit score set the stage for a dramatic final half-hour, with Barcelona pushing hard for the go-ahead goal, but Athletic remaining a threat on the counter. Still, the home side had the bulk of the chances. The large majority of Barcelona's play came via the left flank where Neymar and Jordi Alba made piercing runs deep into the Athletic area. From there they would cross in for Suarez or cut back for Iniesta or Messi, but for the moment Athletic were able to block or deflect any effort at goal.Just when it looked like the match would have to be decided in extra time, none other than Messi stepped forward to take the match by the scruff and carry his team to the quarterfinals. 

Suarez earned a free kick just outside the area and on a shot that would have made his friend Stephen Curry proud, Messi rocketed a left-footer that banged off the far post and in past the wrong-footed Iraizoz to make it a 3-1 lead for Barcelona in the match and more importantly, 4-3 on aggregate.Minutes after Messi's fabulous strike, Neymar was inches away from scoring a fantastic goal himself, but his shot struck the post after some fancy dribbling through the Athletic defence.Still, Athletic were just a goal away from qualifying for the next round and any foray into the Barcelona half from the Basques was unnerving for the home fans, but the Barcelona defence held firm to see things out.Barcelona return to action on Saturday at home versus Las Palmas.

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