Football: Barca minus Messi, Suarez edge towards Cup semis

Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic (left),  Arda Turan (centre) and Andres Iniesta celebrate after scoring the opening goal.
Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic (left), Arda Turan (centre) and Andres Iniesta celebrate after scoring the opening goal.PHOTO: EPA

MADRID (AFP) - Holders Barcelona overcame the absence of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez to take a huge step towards the Copa del Rey semi-finals with a 2-1 win at Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday.

Messi was absent due to a hamstring problem, whilst Suarez completed a two-game Cup ban, but the visitors still took control of the tie with two goals in six first-half minutes from Munir El Haddadi and Neymar.

However, Aritz Aduriz's 23rd goal of the season a minute from time handed Athletic hope for next week's second leg.

La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid also have work to do to reach the semi-finals after a 0-0 draw at Celta Vigo in their quarter-final, first leg.

Barca had hammered a 10-man Athletic 6-0 on Sunday and 3-1 in last year's final, and there was a familiar feeling for the Basques despite a bright start from the home side.

The European champions went ahead on 18 minutes thanks to a brilliant team goal that started with goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and ended with Ivan Rakitic's inviting low cross being swept home by El Haddadi for his fifth goal in the competition this season.

Athletic contributed to their own downfall moments later, though, as goalkeeper Iago Herrerin missed the ball as he came flying out his goal and allowed Neymar to roll his 20th goal of the season into an empty net.

The hosts dominated the second period but looked set to end the night empty-handed when Ter Stegen made a brilliant save to turn Aduriz's header over 10 minutes from time.

However, Athletic finally got the goal their display deserved when Aduriz turned home Mikel San Jose's pass.

And Ter Stegen had to make another fine stop from Aduriz seconds later to prevent Athletic salvaging a draw in stoppage time.

Celta had the better of a game of few clear-cut chances at Balaidos, but Miguel Angel Moya saved Iago Aspas' effort before Atletico captain Gabi cleared off the line late on.

The sides will meet for a third time in 17 days next Wednesday at the Vicente Calderon for a place in the last four.

Gary Neville's Valencia host Las Palmas and the only second-tier side left in the competition, Mirandes, visit Sevilla in the other two quarter-finals on Thursday.