Goals from Ousmane Dembele and Gerard Pique before an extra time strike from Martin Braithwaite overturned a 2-0 first leg deficit to put Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final, with a 3-2 aggregate win over Sevilla.
La Blaugrana dominated the first half and, as they needed to, shot out of the blocks. It took Ronald Koeman’s side just 12 minutes to open the scoring when Dembele fired a stunner from around 20 yards out into the top corner after the ball broke his way.
The hosts continued to press for the all important second after the interval, but things looked bleak after 72 minutes as the referee awarded a very soft penalty when Oscar Mingueza was adjudged to have fouled Lucas Ocampos in the area. The Argentine stepped up and had his spot kick brilliantly saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, though.
La Blaugrana threw the kitchen sink (and any other other fitting you can think of) for the remainder of the game and, after Sevilla’s Fernando saw red in the last minutes of the game, Pique levelled the tie with a deft header from an Antoine Griezmann cross in the 94th minute to take the game to extra time.
Koeman’s side wasted no time and, after just five minutes of extra time, made it 3-0. Jordi Alba’s cross was met by the head of substitute Braithwaite, who found the back of the net through the legs of Tomas Vaclik. Barca held on for their second win over Sevilla in the space of five days to secure their place in the Cope del Rey final.
Phew, now let’s get to the Barcelona player ratings…
Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GK) – 9/10 – Was the hero of the hour as he saved and held onto Ocampos’ penalty to keep the score 1-0. Did everything he was tasked with to perfection – no mucking around.
Oscar Mingueza (CB) – 7/10 – Had a good game on the right of the back three. Very composed, making several brilliant interceptions as Sevilla broke out while also playing a couple of forward balls that found their way through the visitors’ defensive lines. Conceded a penalty, but it was a poor decision from the referee more than anything. Gerard Pique (CB) – 9/10 – A classic performance from the veteran. Always on hand to cover for either of his centre back colleagues and commanded the back line with his usual assurance. Dramatically grabbed Barca’s second in the 94th minute.
Clement Lenglet (CB) – 6/10 – Had a tough job against the pace and trickery down Sevilla’s right, but did well to nullify the threat when Jordi Alba was caught upfield.
Sergino Dest (RWB) – 5/10 – Absolutely tireless but struggled to get the better of Marcos Acuna down the right and often relied on teammates covering him on the defensive. Hooked off after an hour.
Frenkie de Jong (CM) – 7/10 – Made some effortlessly lovely touches in midfield to get his side up the pitch, as well as driving and surging into the final third to support attacks. Sergio Busquets (CM) – 6/10 – Played a couple of excellent through balls in the first 45, before bizarrely seeming to avoid any sort of searching pass after the break. Did well as the screen to the defence, however, crucially breaking down a couple of counters. Pedri (CM) – 6/10 – Was dogged in midfield, constantly making a nuisance of himself. Despite some good phases and attacking touches on the ball, the youngster couldn’t find a cutting edge to impact the game. Jordi Alba (LWB) – 8/10 – Fantastic energy down the left. Constantly pressed and won the ball high up the field, as well as contributing well to Barcelona’s attack – including a ferocious volley that cannoned off the bar at 1-0 and the assist for the winner.
Ousmane Dembele (ST) – 8/10 – Showed fantastic work rate with his pressing and tracking back, while also looking sharp and dangerous on the ball. Deservedly got on the scoresheet. Lionel Messi (ST) – 7/10 – Started to pull the strings with quick fire passing and picking out pockets of space in the final third. Was unlucky to see a chipped effort cleared off the line but was a key creator for his side as they got desperate in the second half.
Antoine Griezmann (ST) – 8/10 – Added quality to Barcelona’s forward line with his link up play and movement, and crossed brilliantly for Pique’s late goal. Junior Firpo (RB) – 6/10
Ilaix Moriba (CM) – 6/10
Martin Braithwaite (ST) – 7/10 – Headed well from Alba’s cross to secure his side’s passage to the final. Francisco Trincao (RW) – 6/10
Jose Mourinho has admitted Real Madrid hold all the cards over Gareth Bale’s future and was non-committal when asked whether the Welshman could stay in north London for another season.
The loanee has taken his time in getting up to speed but recent performances against West Ham, Wolfsberger and Burnley have been among his best since returning to Spurs.
Asked if he has had work to do in restoring Bale’s confidence, Mourinho replied: “I did nothing. It’s a very personal thing. When a player has injuries, I believe that a player has scars and many, many times the scars are not just physical. They are also emotional scars.
“A player that has injuries until he gets free and clean emotionally, it takes some time. You just have to be patient and in his case we did nothing. We took care of him the best we could and always will until the last day.
“The friends he has in the dressing room play a role in his happiness, so he was happy. Of course he was missing that happiness related to performing at a high level, I believe in this moment he is there. He is happy and clean, and hopefully we all can manage his minutes, his matches, his feelings, and we are managing the situation the best we can.”
The narrative around Bale’s future has changed in light of his recent performances. Whereas before there was said to be no interest at all in extending his stay, mainly due to his lack of availability and a worrying performance against Brighton, Mourinho is now being asked whether it’s possible for Bale to stay longer than the original loan spell.
When asked whether Bale might stay another season at Tottenham, he added: “I think you should contact your colleagues in Madrid and they should ask [Zinedine] Zidane. He is a Real Madrid player.
“Real Madrid have everything in their hands. They have the player with one year of his contract left and the power in their hands. I just have a player on loan and I’m trying to take the best out of the player for Tottenham with all respect to Real Madrid. It’s the same with [Carlos] Vinicius.
“We try to take care of the players we have on loan for us, but also for the respect we have for the clubs that loan us the player. If you want to know anything about Gareth’s future, ask your colleagues in Madrid to ask Zizou.”
For more from Jude Summerfield, follow him on Twitter!
Manchester United played out their third successive stalemate with a 0-0 draw against Crystal Palace in the Premier League at a misty Selhurst Park on Wednesday evening.
The heavy mist was a blessing at times, as it meant we couldn’t see the absolutely turgid football taking place on the Selhurst Park turf.
Nemanja Matic saw a deflected effort from range well saved by Vicente Guaita in the first half, but United otherwise rarely threatened. Dean Henderson denied Patrick van Aanholt late on to preserve a point for the Red Devils.
Let’s take a breath, recover from all of that excitement, and get into some player ratings.
Vicente Guaita (GK) – 6/10 – Made a terrific first half save to tip over a deflected Matic effort, but was otherwise untroubled.
Joel Ward (RB) – 6/10 – Popped up with a cracking clearance to keep out a Wan-Bissaka cross in the first half. Was the busiest of the Palace backline up against the lively Shaw.
Cheikhou Kouyate (CB) – 7/10 – United offered very little, but Kouyate hardly put a foot wrong.
Gary Cahill (CB) – 6/10 – Won a couple of headers and played out from the back neatly, but had little to do defensively.
Patrick van Aanholt (LB) – 6/10 – Didn’t really have a great deal of defending to do as United rarely probed or threatened. Had Palace’s best chance of the game, but was denied by Henderson.
Andros Townsend (RM) – 5/10 – Flashed a half volley just wide in the second half. Diligently tracked back in an attempt to control the lively Shaw.
Luka Milivojevic (CM) – 5/10 – Sent a good free kick opportunity straight into the United wall. Relatively comfortable as the United midfield failed to ask many questions of Palace. Played in van Aanholt for Palace’s best chance of the match.
James McCarthy (CM) – 6/10 – An energetic, robust performance, before he was forced off with injury just after the hour mark.
Eberechi Eze (LM) – 6/10 – Looked Palace’s liveliest player and enjoyed an interesting battle up against Wan-Bissaka. Replaced with seven minutes remaining.
Christian Benteke (ST) – 5/10 – Combined well with Ayew to tee his strike partner up for half a sight of goal in the second period. Failed to connect with an Ayew cross just after the hour mark.
Jordan Ayew (ST) – 5/10 – Sent a well-struck second half effort straight at Henderson, and picked out Benteke to create an opening from which the Belgian should have done better.
Jairo Riedewald – 5/10
Jeffrey Schlupp – 5/10
Dean Henderson (GK) – 6/10 – Comfortably held onto a fizzing Ayew effort in the second half, and made an important save late on to deny van Aanholt.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (RB) – 6/10 – Produced a terrific low cross in the first half which almost found its way to Cavani. Did well defensively up against Eze and Ayew.
Harry Maguire (CB) – 5/10 – Guilty of misplacing a couple of passes and mistiming a couple of headers
Eric Bailly (CB) – 5/10 – Loose in possession at times and occasionally gave Benteke a little too much space – a more potent strike force may have capitalised.
Luke Shaw (LB) – 7/10 – Injected a bit of life into United with a couple of bursts forward and looked the Red Devils’ most dangerous player.
Fred (CM) – 5/10 – Sloppy in possession on occasions, didn’t offer much going forward, replaced after 73 minutes.
Nemanja Matic (CM) – 5/10 – Drew a good save from Guaita in the first half with a drive from the edge of the box. Otherwise never really asked much of the Palace backline.
Bruno Fernandes (CAM) – 5/10 – Like much of the United team, guilty of sloppily conceding possession a number of times. Unable to exert his usual quality on the game.
Mason Greenwood (RW) – 5/10 – Sent a half chance just past the post in the first half. Moved into the middle for the final 15 minutes and flashed another half chance over the bar.
Edinson Cavani (ST) – 5/10 – Prodded a half chance narrowly over in the first half, but otherwise didn’t look his usual sharp self. Replaced after 75 minutes.
Marcus Rashford (LW) – 5/10 – Flashed a half chance just wide in the first half, looked sluggish on the ball in the second.
From South Korea’s surge to the 2002 World Cup semi finals on home soil, to Japan’s victory at the 2011 Women’s World Cup, Asia has a proud footballing past.
As a result, the continent has produced a selection of top class footballing talent down the years who have graced the pitch in Asia and beyond.
Let’s take a look at the greatest male Asian footballers of all time.
One of just two Japanese players to win the Premier League, Okazaki was part of the famous Leicester side who stormed to an unlikely top flight triumph in 2016.
The forward scored a fabulous overhead kick against Newcastle to steer the Foxes closer to the title, and with 50 goals in 119 appearances for his country, he is Japan’s third all-time top scorer and fourth all-time appearance maker.
Saeed Al-Owairan is responsible for creating a piece of Saudi Arabian footballing history, netting the winning goal five minutes into his country’s 1994 World Cup group stage fixture against Belgium to send Saudi Arabia through to the knockout stages for the first – and thus far only – time in their history.
It is an iconic World Cup moment, Al-Owairan embarking on a mazy, Maradona-esque run from inside his own half. The versatile attacking midfielder was a force to be reckoned with in the domestic game too, netting 238 goals in 588 appearances for Al Shabab FC – the club he spent his entire career with.
Kazuyoshi Miura is best known as the oldest goalscorer and player in professional football – he’s still going strong for Yokohama FC in the Japanese top flight at age of 54.
But his age defying feats can take away from what a genuine quality player he was in his hay day. The 1992 Asian Player of the Year spent the first eight years of his career playing domestic football in Brazil, where his supreme technical ability, speed and control meant he slotted in effortlessly. The forward is his country’s second all-time top scorer, with 55 goals in just 89 appearances for Japan.
Abdullah Majed is another one club man, spending 21-year career with Al Nassr.
It was on the international stage where the forward really forged his legendary status, scoring 72 times in 117 appearances for Saudi Arabia to make him the country’s all-time top scorer. Three of these goals came in two successive Asia Cup finals, as Saudi Arabia won the competition twice in a row in 1984 and 1988.
Kunishige Kamamoto spent his entire club career with Yanmar Diesel, where he netted a ridiculous 202 goals in 251 appearances.
The forward hit a similarly outrageous 75 goals in 76 appearances for Japan, making hime the country’s all-time top scorer. Seven of these goals came at the 1968 Olympics to guide his country to a famous bronze medal, with Kamamoto the tournament’s top goal scorer.
Younis Mahmoud was at the very heart of an Iraq side that made history time and time again.
The striker was part of the 2004 side’s giant killing run the semi finals of the Olympic games, Portugal and Australia beaten along the way. Mahmoud netted a towering header to win the 2007 Asia Cup final and secure a remarkable, underdog triumph. With 57 goals in 148 appearances for his country, he is Iraq’s all-time top appearance maker and second top scorer.
Javad Nekounam is Iran’s record appearance holder, turning out for his country 151 times, netting 39 goals – a pretty good return for a midfielder – and establishing himself as Iran’s talisman.
He moved to Osasuna in 2006 and stayed in La Liga for seven years across two different spells and becoming one of the Spanish side’s most influential players. It was a bit of a rarity at the time for an Asian player to be so instrumental abroad.
Sami Al-Jaber is regarded as one of the finest players in Saudi Arabian football history. Prior to the forward had made his international debut, Saudi Arabia had never qualified for the World Cup. Al-Jaber would go on to feature at four successive World Cups for his country.
Al-Jaber is an institution in his homeland, and his 46 goals in 156 appearances for Saudi Arabia make the forward his country’s second all-time top scorer. He spent the majority of his career with Saudi side Al Hilal, but had a brief, rogue, four-game loan spell with Wolves in 2001.
A full-back or winger by trade, Mehdi Mahdavikia was renowned for his bursting pace, skill and pinpoint crossing ability. The former Iran captain is a recipient of both the Asian Young Player of the Year award in 1997, and the Asian Player of the Year award in 2003.
His performances at the 1998 World Cup – including a famous display against the USA – earned him a move to the Bundesliga, and after a short spell at Bochum, Mahdavikia joined Hamburg. He spent eight years with the German outfit, twice winning the club’s Player of the Year award, turning out in the Champions League and recording the most assists in the Bundesliga during the 2002/03 season.
The ‘Iranian Maradona’ is the current all-time top scorer in international football, with 109 goals in 149 appearances for his country. Cristiano Ronaldo is the only other male player to have netted a century of international goals.
Daei was renowned for his aerial ability and goal scoring instinct. Although his club career was less glittering than his international career, the forward still won the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich in 1998/99 – and was crowned Asian Footballer of the Year later that same year.
Intelligent, skilful and rapid, Shinji Kagawa had the makings of the greatest Asian player of all time. He won the Bundesliga twice with Borussia Dortmund by the age of 23, earning him a £12m move to Manchester United.
He suffered from injuries and a lack of playing time at Old Trafford – but still became the first Japanese player to win the Premier League. Kagawa has made 97 appearances for his country, scored 31 goals and won the Asian International Player of the Year award in 2012.
Blessed with supreme technical ability and dead ball skill, Shunsuke Nakamura is a fan favourite among Celtic supporters following the four glittering years he enjoyed at Celtic Park. He netted a stunning free kick winner against Manchester United in the 2006/07 Champions League to ensure he will forever have a fond place in the hearts of Bhoys supporters.
2007 was a particularly sweet year for the Japan midfielder; he was named the PFA Player of the Year, Scottish Football Writers’ Player of the Year and was nominated for the Ballon d’Or. Nakamura is still playing for Yokohama, but with Kazuyoshi Miura as a teammate, he’s a youthful face around the J League club at the tender age of 42.
Hong Myung-bo is a South Korean footballing icon, boasting superb vision, passing range and longevity in the game. His 136 caps make him his country’s joint top appearance maker.
The defender captained South Korea to their famous fourth place finish at the 2002 World Cup and his performances saw him scoop the Bronze Ball – the first ever Asian player to do so. The 2002 tournament was Myung-Bo’s fourth successive World Cup – again, the first Asian player to achieve such a feat.
Ranked second in IFFHS’s Asian Player of the Century, Kim Joo-sung was renowned for his pace and long mane of hair – which earned him the nickname ‘Wild Horse’.
The winger spent much of his career with Daewoo Royals in his native South Korea, before seeing out his playing days with a loan spell FC Bochum. Joo-sung won the prestigious Asian Footballer of the Year award three years on the trot between 1989 and 1991 – a feat that is yet to be repeated.
Hidetoshi Nakata is regarded as one of the most talented Japanese players of all time. The two-time Asian Footballer of the Year, three time Ballon d’Or nominee and four-time FIFA World Player of the Year nominee was renowned for his vision, balance and creativity.
The midfielder netted five goals as Japan secured qualification for their maiden World Cup in 1998 and spent five years in Serie A during a purple patch for Italian domestic football, even netting in 2002 Coppa Italia final for Parma. He hung up his boots in 2006 at the age of just 29.
Renowned for his athleticism, creativity and dead ball prowess, Keisuke Honda was a figure of consistency for Japan for a decade.
The attacking midfielder made 98 appearances for his country, shooting to fame at the 2010 World Cup with a selection of fine individual performances. Honda was the star of the show a year later, as he was named player of the tournament during Japan’s 2011 Asia Cup triumph. He spent much of his domestic career in Europe, winning titles in the Netherlands and Russia.
Park Ji-sung helped to put Asian football on the map. The South Korean international played out the best days of his career with Sir Alex Ferguson’s legendary Manchester United side, and with the Red Devils he became the first Asian player to win the Champions League in 2008.
Park won four Premier League titles, was nominated for the Ballon d’Or in 2005 and was an integral part of the South Korea side that reached the semi finals of the 2002 World Cup.
Since moving to Tottenham in 2015, Son Heung-min has gradually established himself as one of the finest players in the Premier League – and the world.
The infectiously charismatic South Korean was listed 22nd in the Guardian’s 100 best players in the world in 2020, and his placing of 22nd in the 2019 Ballon d’Or is the highest ever achieved by an Asian player. Son also bagged the Puskas award in 2020 for his stunning solo goal against Burnley.
With 143 goals in 395 appearances for Barcelona, Paulino Alcantara is the Catalan club’s seventh all-time top scorer – and finds himself in some pretty prestigious company.
The forward was born in the Philippines to a Spanish father and Filipino mother, moving to Barcelona at the age of three. He made his Barcelona debut in 1912 aged 15 – and remains the youngest player to play and score for the Spanish side. He retired at the age of 31 to become a doctor.
Cha Bum-kun is South Korea’s all-time top scorer with 58 goals in 136 appearances – and became international football’s youngest centurion at the age of 24.
It was domestically where the forward really shone and established himself as one of the best in the world in the 1980s. Renowned for his explosive pace and ability to strike a ball, he scored 98 Bundesliga goals across spells with Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen – and won the UEFA Cup with both of them. His antics across his 13-year career saw him crowned Asian Player of the Century.
Rangers struck three minutes from time to move to within four points of their first Scottish Premiership title in 10 years with a 1-0 victory over Livingston at the Almondvale Stadium on Wednesday evening.
An 87th Alfredo Morelos strike saw the Gers past a resilient Livingston side, with manager Steven Gerrard sent off at half time following a confrontation with referee John Beaton.
The victory moves Rangers 18 points clear of rivals Celtic at the Scottish Premiership summit, and they could seal the league title at Celtic Park when the two sides meet in the Old Firm on 21 March.
In a first 45 of few chances, Morelos saw Rangers’ most promising opening of the half as he broke into the Livingston box, knocking the ball over Max Stryjek before appearing to be brought down by the hosts’ goalkeeper. However, referee Beaton deemed the forward to have dived, and booked him for simulation.
This was a decision that did not go down well with boss Gerrard, who confronted the referee after the half time whistle. The former Liverpool midfielder was shown one yellow, and then another, and was forced to watch the second period from the stands.
Connor Goldson had the ball in the net for Rangers in the opening exchanges of the second half, but saw his header disallowed for offside.
Morelos should have given Rangers the lead as the clock ticked down, but saw his header from close range flash wide. However, he atoned for his miss three minutes from time, tucking home after Stryjek palmed Steven Davis’ strike into his path.
The result sees Rangers move to within touching distance of their first top flight title in a decade. Gerrard’s side play St. Mirren on Saturday, and victory will leave them needing just a point from their clash with rivals Celtic a fortnight later to be crowned champions of Scotland.