Valverde must take blame for Barcelona's Copa del Rey humiliation
SEVILLE, Spain -- Barcelona missed the chance to end the season with the double as they went down to a surprise, 2-1 defeat against Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday at the Benito Villamarin. The result will lead to more questions about Ernesto Valverde's future despite the backing he received from Lionel Messi and other players ahead of this game.
Valencia raced into a two-goal lead in the first half through strikes from Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo. Barca rallied after the break and pulled a goal back through Messi but were unable to complete the comeback, missing out on the chance to win the cup for a historic fifth successive year. Valencia, instead, won their first trophy since 2008.
There weren't many. Malcom's impact off the bench was one. Some may also suggest losing was a positive: There's an argument that Messi's brilliance has papered over the cracks for too long now. This loss, which comes so soon after the humiliating Champions League collapse at Liverpool, could well lead to a summer shake-up.
The first-half performance was horrid. Messi said on Friday that it's unacceptable for this Barca team to fail to compete with their opponent, but that's exactly what happened here. There was a long list of bad performances: Semedo, Arthur, Ivan Rakitic, Philippe Coutinho. Not many players will escape criticism after this.
Manager Rating out of 10
4 -- Valverde got it wrong with his initial lineup once again, as he did in Rome last year and at Anfield earlier this month. He left Messi isolated in attack, and there was no pace. He did react at half-time, but it was too late. Questions will now flood in surrounding his future.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jasper Cillessen, 6 -- Could do little about either of the Valencia goals but simply doesn't offer the presence back there that Marc-Andre ter Stegen does. This may well have been Cillessen's last game for the club ahead of a summer move.
DF Nelson Semedo, 4 -- Recovered from a knock to the head last weekend but lasted only the first half. The opening goal came down his flank, and he didn't do enough to track Rodrigo's run for Valencia's second. Paid the price by being removed by Valverde at half-time.
DF Gerard Pique, 6 -- One of the few Barca players that did seem to play with real heart. Made a brilliant, goal-line clearance from Rodrigo and a couple of other key interventions at the back. Also looked to drive forward with the ball whenever possible.
DF Clement Lenglet, 5 -- A second successive cup final defeat after forming part of the Sevilla side that was drubbed by Barca last season. Started the evening with a misplaced pass, was spared a Valencia goal by Pique but struggled to find his best football from then on.
DF Jordi Alba, 5 -- The left-back made his 300th appearance for the Catalans, but it was a milestone to forget. For some reason, he insisted on crossing the ball despite Barca's lack of presence in the box. Was also roasted for pace by Soler for the second Valencia goal.
MF Sergio Busquets, 6 -- The pick of the Barca midfield, which hasn't happened often this season. Made some key interceptions and started some decent moves. Was booked for a late challenge on Rodrigo just outside the box.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 5 -- Kicked some water bottles when he was taken off in the second half out of frustration at being unable to deliver on the pitch. Save a loose shot straight at Jaume just before the break, he did not offer enough going forward.
MF Arthur Melo, 4 -- Didn't do enough to justify his selection ahead of Arturo Vidal. Was too slow and predictable in the final third having just returned from an injury and was substituted after 45 minutes.
FW Sergi Roberto, 5 -- Didn't offer enough protection for Semedo in the first half before dropping back in the second half to right-back, where he gave the ball away and struggled to keep his position.
FW Lionel Messi, 7 -- Completely let down by his teammates. Was a menace every time he got the ball, but Valencia were often able to deal to him due to the lack of a presence elsewhere in attack. Despite that, still forced Jaume into several saves, hit the post after an amazing solo run and strike, and then got the goal that gave Barca life inside the last 20 minutes.
FW Philippe Coutinho, 4 -- Another limp performance in attack. A couple of efforts were either deflected or easily saved as he failed to end a disappointing season on a high.
FW Malcom, 7 -- Made a positive impact off the bench at the break. Ran at Valencia, won free kicks in dangerous areas and set up chances for Pique and Messi. Hasn't had enough chances this season.
MF Arturo Vidal, 6 -- Didn't offer his best performance but added something Barca had been lacking: a presence in the box. Was a willing runner between the lines but missed the best chance which fell his way.
MF Carles Alena, NR -- Came on for the final 15 minutes in place of Rakitic to offer a more attacking threat from midfield.