We never threw away the Cup, says proud Barca boss Koeman

Soccer Football - Copa del Rey - Semi Final Second Leg - FC Barcelona v Sevilla - Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain - March 3, 2021 Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman speaks to his players at half time of extra time REUTERS/Albert Gea

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman praised his side for their never-say-die attitude after they reached the Copa del Rey final with a 3-0 win after extra time over Sevilla on Wednesday to pull off the latest in a series of great turnarounds in the competition.

Barca lost the first leg 2-0 but Ousmane Dembele's thumping early strike put them ahead at the Camp Nou before Gerard Pique headed home in added time to level the tie, after Sevilla's Lucas Ocampos had missed a penalty.

Martin Braithwaite's extra-time header completed a 3-2 aggregate win and continued a remarkable journey in this year's Copa, in which Barca needed extra time to knock out third division Cornella 2-0 and came from behind to beat second division Rayo Vallecano 2-1.

They were 2-0 down at Granada until the 88th minute in the quarter-finals but levelled with two late goals before winning 5-3 after extra time.

"We always believed, we have never thrown this Cup away," Koeman told reporters.

"It's a question of mentality, and as a coach I can't ask for any more from my team than what I saw tonight. We kept on fighting in extra time, it was incredible. I'm very satisfied with how hard we worked tonight. We deserved the win."

Unlike previous coaches, Koeman has prioritised the Copa del Rey and rested players in league matches to keep them fresh for Cup games, saying the competition was Barca's best chance of a trophy due to Atletico Madrid's dominance in La Liga and the fierce competition of the Champions League.

"I'm very proud. It's an important moment for the team and for me. Because if you win a game like this you are seen as a good coach but if you lose you are seen as very bad," he added.

"This team is very strong physically and mentally. We can't always play great football but if you have the ball you can always create opportunities. What we did tonight was something extraordinary."

(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Toby Davis)

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