Late show sends Barca to semis

Barcelona needed late goals from Gerard Pique and Neymar to defeat Athletic Bilbao 3-1 on Wednesday and book their place in the Copa del Rey semi-finals.

Neymar missed La Blaugrana’s 2-1 win at Malaga with a hamstring complaint, but he was given the go-ahead to partner Lionel Messi and Suarez in attack, with the Uruguayan also having sat out his two-game ban.

Elsewhere, Marc-Andre ter Stegen replaced Claudio Bravo in goal, Dani Alves, Jeremy Mathieu and Pique, who was suspended for the trip to La Rosaleda, came into the back four, while Sergi Roberto and Ivan Rakitic were preferred to Andres Iniesta and Arda, the latter of whom was cut from the squad.

Athletic, meanwhile, supported top goalscorer Aritz Aduriz with Williams, rather than Iker Muniain, as they attempted to overturn a 2-1 deficit from the first leg, and they took a leaf straight out of Malaga’s book, having flown out of the traps to stifle the hosts’ domineering style.

However, they went one better than the Andalucians, preventing Barca from getting an early goal and helping themselves to one as Aduriz showed fabulous vision to pierce the Catalans’ defence and pick out Williams, who sprang the offside trap and rounded Ter Stegen.

Los Leones then could’ve – and should’ve – added to their lead, when Javi Eraso got in front of the Barca backline from a cross but could only aim his side-footed finish wide of the far post, before Markel Susaeta horribly blazed an effort over, with the goal at his mercy.

Barca’s best chances, meanwhile, fell to Neymar, who had two penalty appeals turned down, having been obstructed by Aymeric Laporte and then upended by the defender, the second of which appeared to have gravitas, although the referee thought otherwise.

Athletic struggled to maintain their highly-charged start in the second half as Barca cranked up the pressure, but substitute Sabin Merino should still have done better with his shot on the end of Williams’ cross, which was blocked, before Eraso could only guide the rebound into Ter Stegen's arms.

Alves was then forced to make a last-ditch tackle on a close-range finish as Sabin then floated a curling strike just wide of Ter Stegen’s goal, with the goalkeeper relegated to ball-watching, but Messi suddenly latched onto Sergi’s long ball down the left and sent a low cross into the box for Suarez, who fired home an angled finish at the far post.

Barca would have to wait half an hour for a second goal to open up breathing space between themselves and Athletic, Alves easing past Mikel Balenziaga and lifting a cross into the penalty area for Pique, who had a glancing header saved by Herrerin moments earlier, to nod home.

The win – and a place in the last four – was ultimately confirmed in stoppage time, when Neymar, despite hobbling his way over after rough treatment from Athletic players all evening, wriggled into the box and smashed a left-footed shot past Herrerin.

Barcelona 3-1 Athletic Bilbao (5-2 agg.)

Suarez 53, Pique 81, Neymar 90 (B) Williams 12 (A)

Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Alves, Pique, Vermaelen (Busquets 70), Mathieu; Mascherano, Rakitic, Sergi; Messi, Suarez, Neymar

Athletic Bilbao: Herrerin; Lekue, Boveda, Laporte. Balenziaga; San Jose, Rico (Benat 57); Susaeta (Sabin 57), Eraso (Muniain 73), Williams; Aduriz

Referee: Hernandez Hernandez