Guardiola bids Barca farewell with Cup win

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Barcelona clinched a 3-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final to ensure a winning send off for departing coach Pep Guardiola.

Two goals from Pedro and a strike from Lionel Messi, remarkably his 73rd of the season, ended the game as a contest inside the first 25 minutes to help the Catalan club claim their 14th and final trophy under Guardiola.

That haul makes the former Barcelona midfielder the most successful coach in the club’s history having failed to win just five of the competitions entered during his four year spell in charge.

The win marked Barcelona’s 26th victory in the Copa del Rey, extending their lead as the competition’s most successful team over Bilbao, who have won it 23 times.

Talk before the game was of whether Barcelona would be motivated for the final after missing out on the Champions League and the league title to rivals Real Madrid.

However there was to be no denying Barcelona’s desire to give their manager the fitting send off he deserved at the Estadio Vicente Calderón, with Pedro getting the ball rolling inside the first three minutes.

Barca hit the ground running and Messi could have opened the scoring inside the first minute as he curled his shot just past the post, however they weren’t to be denied for too much longer as a Bilbao defensive mix up gifted them the lead.

Adriano’s corner wasn’t properly dealt with by Javi Martinez, with the ball bouncing up out of his control to fall kindly into the path of Pedro, who dispatched his effort past Gorka Iraizoz in the Bilbao goal.

With their tails up Barca were setting an unrelenting pace that even the whirlwind-esque Bilbao couldn’t live with, and before long Gaurdiola’s side had doubled their lead, and somewhat inevitably it was Messi getting his name on the scoresheet once more.

Having previously forced a good save from Iraizoz from distance the Argentinian latched onto Andres Iniesta’s sublimely weighted pass after 20 minutes, took control of the ball with the outside of his boot before rifling his finish into the roof of the net.

Just five minutes later and the game threatened to develop into a rout as Pedro picked up his second and arguably Barca’s finest of the night, with the Spanish international curling his low effort around the grasp of Iraizoz and into the net from just outside the area.

Bilbao coach Marcelo Biesla would have been relieved to have kept the scoreline at 3-0 at half-time, although he cut a frustrated figure as Gerard Pique seemingly bundled Fernando Llorente over in the area only for referee David Fernandez Borbalan to wave play on.

The Basque side emerged much the better side in the second half as they looked to claw their way back into the game having made two midfield substitutions, with Inigo Perez and Ander Herrera entering the fray, although the threat of Messi’s pace on the break continued to worry them.

Ibai Gomez spurned Bilbao’s finest chance of the match as he raced through clear on goal, only to see his elaborate lobbed attempt drift wide.

Bilbao’s early onslaught couldn’t be converted into a goal that may have made the game more competitive and by the end it was Barca who looked more likely to score with Pedro denied the chance to claim his hat-trick by a last-ditch tackle.

Ultimately the night ended in frustration for Bilbao as they saw their second attempt to win a trophy in just over two weeks go up in smoke following their defeat against Atletico Madrid in the Europa League final, while for Barca the night represented the perfect end to a golden era as Guardiola put the icing on a legacy that will be remembered for decades to come.

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