Suarez scores winner as Barcelona beats Valencia in Copa semifinals

FC Barcelona's Luis Suarez celebrates a goal. (ALBERTO ESTEVEZ/EPA)

MADRID — Luis Suarez scored a second-half winner off a cross by Lionel Messi as Barcelona defeated Valencia 1-0 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals on Thursday, staying on track to reach the final for a fifth straight time.

Barcelona was having difficulty getting past the Valencia defence at Camp Nou Stadium until Messi came through with a great play midway through the second half.

He controlled the ball inside the area and calmly carried it toward the end line, attracting three Valencia defenders. As they converged, he sent the ball all the way across the area to Suarez, who was free to score with a firm diving header.

It was Suarez’s 13th goal in his last 11 matches.

The second leg is next week at Mestalla Stadium in Valencia.

Five-time champion Sevilla drew at Leganes 1-1 in the first leg of the other semifinal on Wednesday. The return match is next week in Seville.

The Copa final is on April 21.

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