Barca's Copa cruise does little for tournament's credibility

Posted by Dermot Ledwith

Lluis Gene/AFP/Getty ImagesAlexis Sanchez and Barca cruised into the Copa semi-finals.

Little was learnt from Barcelona's 5-1 victory over Levante on a wet Wednesday night in the Camp Nou, except perhaps that there needs to be a re-organisation of the Kings Cup competition if Spanish football is to win back local fans and raise its profile internationally.

Adriano and Carles Puyol got first half goals to seal the win after Sergi Roberto had scored an early own goal, but the tie was never in doubt after Lionel Messi had inspired Barca to a 4-1 away in the first leg of this quarter final tie last Wednesday.

Barcelona will now almost certainly take on Real Sociedad, who lead third-tier Racing Santander 3-1 after their first leg, for a place in the final while the two Madrid sides will face each other in the other semi after a thrilling 2-1 victory for Atletico at Athletic Bilbao earlier on Wednesday evening.

- Report: Barca 5-1 Levante

However, there was no spectacle on a horribly rainy night in the Ciudad Condal as a crowd officially given as just 25,551 fans, although it appeared to be less, showed up to support the side even though tickets were on sale from as little as 9 Euros in anticipation of a low turnout.

Apart from the horrible weather conditions, the late 10 p.m. kick-off time and the game being shown live on Spanish TV, what certainly does not help to sell a game like this is the format of the much maligned Spanish Cup that dictates that ties are played over two legs, thus producing a number of dead rubbers like this one.

The President of the Spanish League, Javier Tebas, even took to Twitter in the past week to promote an article in a Spanish newspaper that claimed the famous English FA Cup was not in the best of health. While perhaps there may have been some truth in the story, Tebas was undoubtedly defending his own competition that has come under attack in recent years for the way it is structured.

The fact that the semi-finals will almost certainly be made up of the four sides that qualified for this season's Champions League suggests that two legged ties leave little possibility for surprises, the argument being that a lesser side has an outside chance of beating one of the top teams over 90 minutes, but hardly any opportunity over two games.

The way the Spanish Cup is drawn all the way through to the final from the moment 16 sides are left in the competition also reduces the "magic" of the competition. Clubs can visualise the path to a potential final and decide how seriously to take the competition depending on the complexity of the draw.

Perhaps the best example of a club not looking to advance is Levante, who rested five players for the first leg that had started only days before their commendable 1-1 league draw with Barca. Again on Wednesday their side was filled with reserves as the thanklessness of their task lead coach Joaquin Caparros to look for solutions rather than dream of a Cup upset.

The very nature of social media meant that Tebas immediately came under attack from both journalists and fans alike within minutes of his original message. All credit to him for joining in and responding to many of the messages pointing out the flaws of the competition he helps to organise, but he did not appear to be swayed by any of their arguments by the time of his departure from the debate.

Back to the play on Wednesday night: Adriano's goal was a lovely curled left footed shot across Levante reserve keeper Javi Jimenez and Puyol grabbed a typically powerful near post header before the break. In the second half Alexis poked two balls over the line within a minute as Jimenez struggled in the wet conditions, before Martin Montoya slotted home a shot from the right to make it five.

Lionel Messi sensibly stayed on the bench out of the rain while Ibrahim Afellay did get 22 minutes on top of his first five in a long time at the weekend, while Carles Puyol will welcome another 90 minutes under his belt along with his goal.

Meanwhile Barca are in the semis after three ties over two games against Cartagena, Getafe and Levante in which they have scored 22 goals and conceded just three. The Cup will now start for real at the final four stage against a serious Sociedad side. Meanwhile there is undoubtedly work to be done to restructure this competition if the opening rounds are to be taken seriously by the fans.


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