MADRID, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Argentine striker Javier Saviola steered Barcelona into the quarter-finals of the King's Cup when he hit a hat-trick in his side's 3-2 win over second division Alaves at the Nou Camp on Tuesday.
The victory earned the Spanish champions a 5-2 aggregate
victory but an otherwise sloppy performance will have done
little to allay fears that the Catalans have gone off the boil
after winning just one of their last five league matches.
Saviola, who also scored both goals in the 2-0 win in last
week's first leg, strengthened his case for a regular place in
the starting line-up with another fine individual performance.
His first came when he bundled the ball in from close range
on 16 minutes after Alaves keeper Nicolas Ardouin palmed the
ball into his path following a Ronaldinho free kick.
The pocket-sized Argentine made it 2-0 four minutes later
when he ballooned a header over the French keeper after
midfielder Thiago Motta had dinked a neat pass into the area.
But the Catalans relaxed too soon and Alaves were back on
level terms in the game by halftime.
Brazilian forward Wellington Paulista chipped the ball over
Albert Jorquera after a neat one-two on the edge of the area and
fellow countryman Arthuro left the Barca keeper standing when he
curled a superbly struck free kick around the wall from 25
Wellington had a great chance to put Alaves ahead on the
night when he broke free and rounded Jorquera early in the
second half, but defender Carles Puyol managed to scramble the
Brazilian's shot off the line.
Saviola ended any hopes of a comeback when he completed his
hat-trick soon after, volleying home from 15 metres out after
Xavi had beaten the offside trap with a chipped pass over the
Alaves back four.
The majority of the remaining ties will be played on
Wednesday. Real Madrid host struggling Real Betis at the
Bernabeu on Thursday after the two sides fought out a 0-0 draw
in last week's first leg.