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Guardiola gets winning send-off as Barça win Copa del Rey
ThinkSpain , Saturday, May 26, 2012

Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola went out on a high with his team lifting the Copa Del Rey after a 3-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao in Madrid tonight.

Pedro scored a  brace at the Vicente Calderón, netting either side of a 20th-minute Lionel Messi strike to seal the comprehensive win in what was Guardiola's last match in charge.

The triumph is the perfect send-off for the coach after an illustrious career at Camp Nou, especially after the Catalan giants missed out on the Primera Liga title to Real Madrid.  The cup triumph is his 14th trophy in four years at Barça.

Barça were completely dominant in the opening quarter and Messi nearly had a spectacular second when his curling effort from just outside the area was clawed away at full stretch by Iraizoz while Xavi also fired just over from range.

Athletic had to wait 26 minutes for their first attempt on goal as José Manuel Pinto parried Markel Susaeta's fierce drive to safety, but moments later the Basque side had cause for complaint as Llorente appeared to be brought down by Piqué when clean through on goal.

The defender certainly appeared to have a hold of his Spain colleague's shirt and would most likely have been sent off for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity had the penalty been awarded.

Ibai Gómez had Athletic's best chance of the game six minutes into the second half, but his chip over Pinto floated just wide.

Messi then nearly capped another classic performance with 20 minutes remaining as he dashed past five Athletic defenders before Iraizoz blocked his shot and there was no-one from Barça to take advantage of the rebound.

Athletic had one final chance to get a consolation goal, but an unmarked Aurtenetxe headed wide of the goal to sum up their evening as Barça played out the final minutes to claim their 26th Copa del Rey title.

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