BARCELONA: Lionel Messi’s magical first goal for Barcelona was the illuminating highlight of a cup finals weekend in which players reclaimed the game from being a political football.
Arsenal won the FA Cup with a comfortable 4-0 dismissal of lacklustre Aston Villa, Paris Saint-Germain clinched the treble in France and Wolfsburg won the German cup for the first time.
Messi emerged from midfield on the right to embark on a mazy Maradona-style slalom through the Bilbao defence to score the first of his two goals in Barcelona’s 3-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao in the King’s Cup final in Camp Nou.
Barcelona, having already won the Spanish league, set themselves up perfectly for Saturday’s Champions League Final against Juventus in Berlin with further goals from Brazil’s Neymar in the 36th minute and then Messi again after 74 minutes.
Inaki Williams headed a late Basque consolation.
Barca’s South American attacking trio of Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez have scored a Spanish record 120 goals in all competitions this season, two more than Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain managed in 2011-12 for Real Madrid. It was also a record-extending 27th King’s Cup title for the Catalans.
In England Arsenal glided to a record 12th FA Cup triumph in their record 19th final. The Gunners, having won nothing for nine years, thus secured their third trophy in just over 12 months and, coincidentally, opened up a Europa League slot for Southampton.
Goals either side of half-time from Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez – a wonderful strike – put them commandingly in charge of a game they had seized by the scruff of the neck from the outset. Skipper Per Mertesacker was allowed a ‘free’ header for No3 and substitute Olivier Giroud slid home a fourth in stoppage time.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has thus won the FA Cup a record-equalling six times from seven finals.
In France PSG achieved a unique domestic treble when Edinson Cavani’s goal secured a 1-0 cup final victory over second division Auxerre. The Uruguayan headed home in the 65th minute to hand PSG their third trophy of the season, adding to their league and league cup triumphs.
It was the capital club’s ninth French cup title and moves them within one of the record held by rivals Marseille.
In Germany Wolfsburg won the cup for the first time after scoring three times in 16 minutes to come back from a goal down to beat Borussia Dortmund 3-1.
The Wolves, who finished second in the Bundesliga, rallied after Dortmund had taken a fifth-minute lead through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. But the Wolves hit back with strikes from Luiz Gustavo, star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and Bas Dost.