Barcelona claimed their first trophy in three years and stayed on course for a historic treble by thrashing Athletic Bilboa 4-1 in the Spanish Cup final.
The Spanish league leaders had to come from behind at the Mestalla after Gaizka Togquero headed underdogs Bilbao into a ninth minute lead. But defender Yaya Toure equalized in the 31st minute before three second half goals in 12 minutes from Lionel Messi, Bojan Krkic and Xavi sealed a first trophy for coach Pep Guardiola. He will look to his charges clinching the Primera Liga title this weekend ahead of their eagerly-awaited Champions League final against Manchester United on May 27 in Rome. Guardiola savored his team’s success. “It is something to enjoy,” he told www.fcbarcelona.com. “We came here very tired and we played an extraordinary game against a very well prepared team,” he added. Bilbao, who have won the Spanish Cup 23 times, made a dream start as Toqquero headed home emphatically from a corner.
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But Barcelona, missing the injured Thierry Henry and Andres Iniesta, saw Samuel Eto’o go closes before central defender Toure burst forward to beat two players before converting a fine solo goal. The inevitable Messi caused Bilbao problems all night and scored the crucial second on 54 minutes. Teenager Bojan, getting a rare start due to Henry’s injury, all but sealed victory with the third as Bilbao were caught on the break. Midfielder Xavi rounded off the victory in the 64th minute with a free kick, leaving Barcelona to play out time to clinch their 25th Spanish Cup. Meanwhile, the Italian Cup went to Lazio after a dramatic penalty shootout victory over Sampdoria as the match ended at 1-1 after extra time. Argentina’s Mauro Zarate gave Lazio a fourth minute lead in Rome’s Olympic Stadium but Giampaolo Pazzini equalised for Sampdoria just after the half hour mark. Frenchman Ousmane Dabo scored the winning penalty for Lazio who claimed the shootout 6-5 to seal a Europa League spot for next season.