MADRID: Lionel Messi marked his return from suspension with a goal in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday as Barcelona survived a scare against Rayo Vallecano to reach the quarter-finals. With Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid already out, another upset looked on the cards when Fran Garcia gave Rayo a surprise lead at Vallecas early in the second half.
A victory over Barcelona, 30-time winners of the competition and now strong favourites to make it 31, would have delivered a brief boost to morale, even if this compelling cup tie never had the tension it deserved without the ground’s usually happening fans. Still, Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has relieved to have made it to the quarter-finals and to see Messi on target again, the Argentinian taking his tally for the season to 15 goals.
Messi had sat out the previous two games suspended after being sent off in the Spanish Super Cup final defeat by Athletic Bilbao but looked refreshed and ultimately made the difference again.