Luis Suarez scored four times and Lionel Messi netted a hat-trick as Barcelona thumped 10-man Valencia 7-0 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final at Camp Nou on Wednesday.
A pair of clinical finishes from Suarez had Luis Enrique’s men two goals up within 12 minutes and the ruthless Messi soon made it three.
Neymar missed a penalty just before half-time after Valencia captain Shkodran Mustafi was sent off for bringing down Messi, who then notched his side’s fourth in the second half.
The Argentine scored his third of the contest before Suarez headed home and struck again in the final minutes, with the stunning victory meaning Barca have won 12 of their last 13 games in all competitions and extend their unbeaten run to 27 matches.
Prior to the match, Gary Neville had urged Valencia to ensure they were still in the tie ahead of next Wednesday’s second leg at Mestalla, but it will take a comeback of miraculous proportions for them to make the final from here after what is surely the lowest moment of his young coaching career.
It took fewer than seven minutes for Barcelona to go ahead. Neymar dispossessed Andre Gomes in midfield and punished Valencia by driving towards goal and slipping a pass through to Suarez, who clinically finished into the far corner.
The hosts netted a second – their 100th goal of the season – five minutes later. A slick passing move resulted in a superb chip forward by Sergio Busquets that was cleverly cut back by Aleix Vidal’s first-time pass and Suarez powerfully struck past Mat Ryan.
Barca were threatening to end the tie as a contest when they struck a third in the 29th minute. Another brilliant sequence of play led to Andres Iniesta’s pass being cleverly flicked on by Neymar and left by Suarez, allowing Messi to easily beat Ryan from just outside the six-yard box.
Neville made a first-half switch in a bid to change his team’s fortunes, bringing Sofiane Feghouli on for Danilo, but it should have been four for Barca as they squandered two golden chances on the stroke of half-time.
First, a surging run and square pass from Suarez had Messi in prime position, but the Argentine’s first-time effort bounced to safety off the crossbar.
A few moments later, Messi was brought down by Mustafi as he prepared to shoot, with the defender shown a straight red card.
Neymar took the penalty, opting for a one-step run up before striking his effort against the post – his fourth miss from eight spot-kick attempts this season.
The Camp Nou crowd gave Valencia’s Denis Cheryshev a huge welcome when he took to the pitch for his debut in the second half after he had inadvertently caused Real Madrid’s elimination from the competition for being fielded as an ineligible player in the round of 32.
The fourth goal was coming and it duly arrived, with Messi notching his second of the match after 58 minutes.
Arda Turan’s pass was flicked on by Suarez and Messi rode the challenge of Jose Gaya before placing a shot past Ryan.
Valencia had a goal ruled out for a marginal offside call after Rodrigo thought he had slotted home, but Messi sealed his treble with 16 minutes remaining. Dani Parejo awfully failed to control and clear from inside his own box, with the forward capitalising to lash in a powerful strike that Ryan failed to keep out at his near post.
Suarez was not to be outshone by his team-mate and he got Barca’s sixth with seven minutes left, heading home substitute Adriano’s cross.
And that was not the end of Valencia’s woe, as the outstanding Suarez collected Turan’s pass and diverted another accurate finish in off the post with two minutes left on another brilliant night for Barca, who continue their bid for back-to-back trebles.
Key Opta stats:
-Luis Suarez is the only player to have scored a hat-trick in three different competitions this season across the top 5 European leagues.
-Barcelona have recorded their biggest win against Valencia in their history (all competitions).
-Lionel Messi has scored 11 goals in 2016, more than any other La Liga player (all competitions).
-Luis Suarez has scored 35 goals in his 33 appearances for Barcelona this season (all competitions).
-Barcelona have scored 105 goals this season, 80 of them have been scored by Luis Suarez (35), Messi (24) and Neymar (21).
-Only Henrikh Mkhitaryan (17) has made more assists than Neymar (16) this season (top 5 leagues, all competitions).
-Neymar has missed four of his eight penalty kicks for Barcelona this season (all competitions).
-Lionel Messi has scored 13 goals in his last nine meetings with Valencia (all competitions).
-Valencia are the side Neymar has played the most against without scoring (five, all competitions).
-Lionel Messi has scored his third hat-trick in Copa del Rey, the first one since 2011 (Valencia, Betis & Atletico).