Kounde stunner gives Sevilla edge over Barca in semis

Jules Kounde’s wondergoal helped give Sevilla the advantage in their Copa del Rey semi-final with Barcelona as they won the first leg 2-0 on Wednesday night.

Ivan Rakitic got what could prove a vital second against his old club late on, but plaudits on the night belonged to the Frenchman Kounde.

The 22-year-old ran from his own half to fire Sevilla in front with 25 minutes gone, evading several challenges before burying a shot beyond Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Barcelona piled on the pressure in the closing stages but could not find an equaliser before Rakitic finished off a counter-attack for Sevilla with five minutes left – offering Julen Lopetegui’s side something of a cushion going into the second leg at the Nou Camp on March 3.

Barca had started positively, with Lionel Messi forcing a save from Bono in the 11th minute after being teed up by Antoine Griezmann.

The Argentine sent another opportunity over in the 22nd minute, but it would be Sevilla’s young centre-back who would steal the show moments later.

Kounde was in his own half when he first picked up the ball, quickly exchanging passes with Suso as he began to edge forward, slowly at first but with ever more conviction as he skipped past challenges with space opening up in front of him.

Barcelona will host Sevilla in the Copa del Rey second leg in March

He arrived in the box with only Ter Stegen to beat and made doing so look easy as he rifled the ball into the bottom left corner.

Barcelona sought an immediate response but Messi sent a free-kick straight at Bono.

Sevilla did an effective job at stifling their visitors for the remainder of the half, which ended with the hosts back on the attack as Sergio Escudero’s shot was saved by Ter Stegen.

Barca were back on the attack early in the second half, but Messi’s shot was blocked before Jordi Alba fired high and wide. Sevilla twice went close on the hour mark as Rakitic and Diego Carlos both saw shots blocked.

Luuk de Jong and Munir El Haddadi were part of a triple Sevilla substitution with 20 minutes to go as Lopetegui sought to build on Sevilla’s advantage, but it was Barca who turned up the heat.

Messi fired narrowly wide before Ousmane Dembele was twice denied and Junior Firpo saw a header blocked.

But with Barca pushing forward they left the door open at the back. A long ball forward found the run of Rakitic down the left, and the Croatian took it in his stride before cutting in and firing into the roof of the net.

Messi had one more chance in stoppage time but Bono was again equal to his shot as the night ended in frustration for the Catalans.

Coppa Italia – Napoli knocked out by Atalanta

Atalanta celebrate reaching the Coppa Italia final
Atalanta celebrate reaching the Coppa Italia final

Matteo Pessina scored twice as Atalanta knocked holders Napoli out of the Coppa Italia with a 3-1 victory to set up a final against Juventus.

A goalless draw in the first leg of the semi-final left the tie on a knife edge, but the hosts raced into a commanding early lead as Duvan Zapata smashed in an unstoppable shot and Pessina swept home the second inside the opening 16 minutes.

Napoli came to life after the break and pulled one back through Hirving Lozano before Pessinas dinked finish 12 minutes from time left the visitors hopes of a successful cup defence in tatters.

Atalanta have won the Coppa Italia once in their history, in 1962-63, and finished as runners-up on three occasions, most recently in 2018-19. They will face Italian champions Juventus, who have won the cup a record 13 times, in the final.

Coupe de France – Holders PSG through, Neymar injured

Holders Paris Saint-Germain reached the last 32 of the Coupe de France with a 1-0 win at Ligue 2 side Caen, but Neymar suffered a possible thigh injury six days before their Champions League last 16 first-leg tie against Barcelona.

Moise Kean scored the only goal early in the second half before Neymar limped off the pitch just after the hour, raising concerns about his participation in the Nou Camp clash.

With Kylian Mbappe and Marquinhos on the bench, PSG struggled against a compact Caen side. Neymar found himself isolated and the French champions failed to create a clear chance in a dull opening half.

Yet the visitors sprung to life after the break as Kean netted from close range from Neymar’s cross at the end of a counter attack four minutes into the second half.

Neymar, however, went down after a robust challenge from Steeve Yago in the 56th minute, holding his left thigh as he left the field to be replaced by Mbappe. PSG will already be without the injured Angel Di Maria for the Barcelona game.

Elsewhere, Marseille ended a seven-game winless streak as they beat AJ Auxerre 2-0 away and Ligue 1 leaders Lille sneaked through with a 1-0 victory at Dijon.


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