BARCELONA: Luis Suarez headed home Lionel Messi’s cross to give Barcelona a 1-0 win over Valencia in the Copa del Rey semi-final first leg on Thursday.
The Uruguayan forward netted his 16th goal in 16 matches to settle a tight game ahead of the decisive second part at Mestalla next week.
Valencia played defensively but eventually, Messi unpicked them, scooping the ball across for Suarez to nod home in the 66th minute.
Barcelona goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen did well to clear the ball to safety as Santi Mina broke through late on, but it was a quiet night for the Copa del Rey holders at the back, who took another step forward in their bid to win it for the fourth season running.
“It’s the minimum advantage. A 1-0 win isn’t much, but there’s the plus that they haven’t scored,” said Suarez.
“They didn’t create much danger, they respected us and that’s beneficial for us. The tie is still open, there’s still 90 minutes to go.
“Valencia is really strong at home and we’re also talking about a cup semi-final.”
The visitors were missing several players, including striker Simone Zaza and midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia, and seemingly played for a goalless draw.
Dani Parejo came close with a powerful low effort well fielded by Cillessen, but other than that Barcelona dominated.
Philippe Coutinho’s introduction as a second-half substitute helped Barcelona open up the game and eventually Suarez broke through.
The 29-time winners will take a lead down the east coast for the second leg, where Valencia fans will attend in droves, unlike at the half-full Camp Nou for this game.
“Mestalla will definitely help (in the second leg),” said Valencia coach Marcelino.
“We did very well to restrict our opponents to few chances in their stadium and we had a chance to score at the end.
“Barcelona are always the favourites in any competition and more so when they are winning 1-0.
“We wanted to make it to the second game still alive, and the team’s performance was extraordinary.”