April 22, 2021

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Barcelona given some respite from off-field issues with stunning comeback against Sevilla to reach Copa del Rey final

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Trailing 2-0 from the first leg, Barcelona halved the deficit early on thanks to Ousmane Dembele’s stunning strike, before Gerard Pique glanced home a dramatic header in the 94th minute to take the tie to extra time.

Sevilla will be left to rue what could have been after Lucas Ocampos had his weak penalty saved by Marc-André ter Stegen on 73 minutes, a goal that would have surely secured passage through to the final.

In the end, it was Barcelona’s Danish forward Martin Braithwaite who made himself the hero, heading home from Jordi Alba’s cross just four minutes into extra time to add a bright spot to an otherwise turbulent week, bookended by seminal moments in the club’s history.

On Monday, four senior Barcelona officials were arrested, and this coming Sunday, the club faces arguably its most consequential presidential election to date.

READ: Chaos, scandal and anger — Barcelona faces seminal presidential elections
Barcelona players celebrate Martin Braithwaite's winner against Sevilla.

All three of the candidates — Joan Laporta, Victor Font and Toni Freixa — were present at the Camp Nou to witness Barça’s on-field resurrection, and fans will be hoping the eventual winner will have been inspired to perform similar miracles off the pitch.

The problems facing the incoming president are numerous — from historic debts reported to be more than one billion dollars to a weak squad that needs rebuilding — but top of the agenda is the future of club captain and talisman Messi.

The Argentine made public his desire to leave Barcelona last summer and it looks increasingly unlikely he will sign a new contract, meaning the greatest player in the club’s history can walk away for free at the end of the current season.

With his contract expiring at the end of the season, Messi has been free to speak with potential suitors for two months now, but has reportedly decided to wait until after the elections to make a decision on his future.

Marc-André ter Stegen of FC Barcelona saves Lucas Ocampos' penalty.

All three candidates have publicly stated that Messi’s future will take precedent over any other issues and whoever emerges victorious will have his work cut out to repair the fractured relationship the club’s star has with the board.

Back in February, Barcelona issued a statement to say it “categorically” denied responsibility for the publication of Messi’s $672 million contract in Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

The leak only served to increase tensions between Messi and the Barcelona hierarchy, which had already been stretched to a breaking point after the Argentine aimed a thinly veiled dig at the board in an emotional farewell to former teammate Luis Suarez.

But those are concerns for next week; for now, fans can enjoy their team reaching an incredible ninth Copa del Rey final in 11 seasons.

2021-03-04 06:03:42

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