Philippe Coutinho came off the bench to score his first goal for Barcelona in a 2-0 win at Valencia on Thursday that saw his new club ease into another Copa del Rey final.
Coutinho broke the deadlock in the 49th minute of the semi-final, second leg at Mestalla, having only come on at the start of the second half.It was the first time the Brazilian had found the net since his blockbuster 160 million-euro ($192 million) move from Liverpool in early January.
Ivan Rakitic then swept home the second goal eight minutes from the end as holders Barcelona secured a place in the final for the fifth season running, becoming the first side to achieve such a feat.
Winners of the trophy in each of the last three campaigns, the Catalans will face Sevilla in the final set for the weekend of April 21 and 22. Sevilla beat Leganes 2-0 on Wednesday to go through 3-1 on aggregate.
“For me it is my first final, so it is a very special moment,” Coutinho told Spanish TV station Gol.
“I am very happy. I had been searching for this goal in my first few matches. Today I got it and it helped the team get through to the final.”
Valencia had been hoping to reach the final for the first time since they won the trophy under Ronald Koeman in 2008, beating Barcelona in the last four on the way.“Barca have been used to playing finals in recent years, but not so much in my case,” said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde, for whom the win came on the eve of his 54th birthday.
With Barcelona nine points clear at the top of La Liga and still in the Champions League, he remains on course to win what would be a remarkable treble in his first season at the club since arriving from Athletic Bilbao.
Trailing 1-0 from the first leg after Luis Suarez’s strike separated the teams at the Camp Nou last week, Valencia did almost level the tie on aggregate early on. However, Rodrigo’s header beat Jasper Cillessen in the Barca goal only to come back off the bar.
Lionel Messi had come close on a couple of occasions for the visitors in the first half, but it was the introduction of Coutinho that swung the tie decisively their way.