Barcelona won another Copa del Rey on Saturday, the 29th in their history, but Alavés can feel proud because they played a magnificent final. The Basque side lost the game because Barça have Leo Messi in their ranks, and he once again lit up the occasion in the Calderón. He scored his side’s first goal, started the move for the second with a ball to André Gomes, who in turn fed Neymar (who was offside) and he put the third on a plate for Paco Alcácer, threading the ball through the eye of a needle after a glorious run. When Messi is unleashed, there is nobody that can resist. The rest of the Barcelona team were so-so, or not so much. Andrés Iniesta had a good game but the sensation of a great team was lacking. The greatness lay in Messi and Messi alone.
Alavés played to their plan of sitting back and hitting on the break in small numbers and a lot of intent. Doing so, they managed to cause Barça a few scares before Messi struck, just after Ibai Gómez had hit the post. But despite Messi’s goal, which appeared to usher in an easy final for Luis Enrique’s side, Theo Hernández replied with a remarkable free kick, hit from distance, from an acute angle and rising as it thundered across the area before dipping into the net just inside the juncture of crossbar and post. Jasper Cillessen was positioned a little centrally but the Barça keeper but I suspect even had he been further towards the shot he still wouldn’t have got to it. Alavés thought they would be going into the break with the scores level but in stoppage time at the end of the first half Barça added their second two goals, with Messi the primary cause.
At the break we could be forgiven for thinking that the final was over. But that was not the case. Alavés retained their spirit, improved in their play and changed their shape with Rubén Sobrino and Víctor Camarasa and threw the kitchen sink at Barcelona with energy and style. Alaves’ thirst knocked Barça out of their stride and spread disorder in the back line. They didn’t manage to score but they kept the game alive until the final whistle. They lost because, as the saying goes, what isn’t to be isn’t to be and it’s impossible anyway. It was impossible because there was only one Messi on the pitch and he was playing for Barcelona. But Alavés were more than worthy finalists.