Barcelona left it late to set a new club record unbeaten run with a 1-1 draw at Valencia, which saw them into the Copa del Rey final with an 8-1 aggregate victory.
Defending champions Barca subjected Gary Neville’s men to a humiliating drubbing last week, with Luis Suarez scoring four and Lionel Messi netting a hat-trick.
Only five players remained from the 22 who took to the field at Camp Nou and the match had the feel of a dead rubber – not even the most committed Valencia fan could argue with any great conviction that their side would turn this tie around.
And the hosts’ efforts amounted to a single Alvaro Negredo strike before half-time, although their attacking endeavour arguably merited more.
There were plenty of positives for Neville, who is yet to register a Liga win as Valencia boss, but Wilfrid Kaptoum scored his first Barcelona goal six minutes from time to make it 29 unbeaten in all competitions, breaking a Barca record set by Pep Guardiola’s 2010-11 vintage.
Sevilla likely await in the final, as they head to Celta Vigo on Thursday with a 4-0 aggregate advantage.
Vast swathes of empty seating contributed to a low-key atmosphere at the Mestalla, and Barcelona’s brighter start did nothing to lift the spirits of those in attendance.
Sandro fired over the crossbar from the edge of the box from an early cutback, before Ivan Rakitic failed to find the target with a fizzed effort from slightly further out.
Jeremy Mathieu made a vital interception when Pablo Piatti played the ball across the six-yard box with Santi Mina lurking in the 22nd minute, and 17-year-old Fran Villalba came close to curling in his first Valencia goal as the hosts began to cause more of a threat.
And it was the home side who broke the deadlock when Negredo evaded the Barca defence to run onto a ball over the top and cut into the net, although there was an element of good fortune in his rounding of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Mina came close to making a further dent in Barca’s now six-goal advantage when he headed just over in the early stages of the second half.
Barca – quite understandably – rarely shifted out of first gear, with Rakitic unleashing wayward drive before sending a tame effort into the arms of Jaume Domenech.
Valencia continued to probe, though, and Ter Stegen had to be on his guard to tip over a Danilo free-kick.
However, as time ticked away, so did the Valencia’s chances of pulling off the miracle comeback, and Kaptoum got on the end of Juan Camara’s pass to slot beyond Domenech for the historic equaliser.
Key Opta stats:
-Barcelona have recorded their longest ever unbeaten run (29, all competitions).
-Alvaro Negredo has scored six goals for Valencia in 2016, only two fewer than he netted in the whole of 2015 (all competitions).
-Barcelona have reached the Copa del Rey final in five of the last six seasons.
-Wilfrid Kaptoum is the first African player to score for Barcelona since Jean Marie Dongou against Cartagena in December 2013 in Copa del Rey.
-Barcelona are unbeaten in the Copa del Rey under Luis Enrique (W15 D2).
-Sergi Roberto completed 83 passes against Valencia, more than in any other game this season (all competitions).
-Ivan Rakitic attempted four shots, more than any other player of the game.
-Alvaro Negredo is Valencia’s top-scorer with Gary Neville as manager (seven, all comps).