Messi's magical goal sparks Barcelona's King's Cup triumph
A magical Lionel Messi goal, the first of a personal double, led treble-chasing Barcelona to a 3-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao in the King's Cup final yesterday morning (Singapore time).
The Argentinian skipped superbly past four players in a mazy run after 20 minutes, before shooting into the bottom corner of the net beyond goalkeeper Iago Herrerin to claim his 33rd goal in his 50th appearance for Barca in the competition.
Messi has been in top form in the second half of the season and again provided the inspiration for his team, who went 2-0 up when Brazilian Neymar slotted the ball into an open goal having been set up by Uruguay's Luis Suarez in the 36th minute.
With the Bilbao defence dozing, Messi nipped in to clip home a Dani Alves cross after 74 minutes.
A flicked Inaki Williams header gave the Basque side a consolation strike with 10 minutes to go.
Barca's South American attacking trio have netted a Spanish record 120 goals in all competitions this season, two more than Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain managed in 2011-12 for Real Madrid.
It was also a record-extending 27th King's Cup title for the Catalans, who have also won La Liga this season and will meet Juventus in the Champions League final in Berlin next Sunday morning (Singapore time).
Neymar had a goal harshly ruled offside and Suarez had a shot saved by Herrerin as Barca took an early grip on the game.
Messi then provided a moment of genius to unlock the Bilbao defence.
The dazzling forward went round three players out on the wing before evading Aymeric Laporte inside the area and finishing clinically with his left foot.
"Leo is incredible... for me the best in the world," said Neymar.
"It is an honour to be part of this team with players that have so much ability."
Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said: "We have seen one of the best goals in the history of the game.''
"Messi is the best player in the history of football," former Barca president Joan Laporta tweeted after the game.
"He is projecting this team to legend status. Berlin awaits the eternal champions," he added.
Barca coach Luis Enrique was overjoyed. "We are fortunate as we see Messi all the time in training.
"In training he actually does things more difficult and I am looking forward to watching this one on the television,'' he said.
Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde also sang praises. "They asked me before if he was unstoppable. He showed it.
"He directs Barca's play and those around him.
"Messi often appears in these types of games and he did this time in a devastating way. His first goal was incredible." - Wire Services.