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Busquets: Messi row not to blame for Barca's shock cup exit

Inaki Williams got ahead of the midfielder in stoppage time to head home a dramatic winner for Athletic Club.

Sergio Busquets pictured during the game.
Sergio Busquets pictured during the game.
Image: Getty Images

SERGIO BUSQUETS refused to blame the row between Lionel Messi and Eric Abidal for Barcelona’s Copa del Rey exit on Thursday night.

A last-gasp goal from Inaki Williams saw Athletic Club claim a 1-0 win at the San Mames Stadium, leaving La Liga and the Champions League as the only chances for Barca to win silverware this season.

Messi had hit back angrily against comments from sporting director and former team-mate Abidal, leading to speculation about the futures of both men – but Busquets was in no mood to talk about it after the game.

“We are just focused on the sporting side of things,” Busquets said when asked about the situation with Messi. “We won in the league at the weekend but it wasn’t to be today.

“It’s a sad day for everyone. We didn’t want to go out.

“We have two competitions left; we have to keep on fighting. We have to continue. Everyone’s angry. We did things well.”

With Real Madrid eliminated in a 4-3 home defeat to Real Sociedad earlier in the evening, this season’s Copa del Rey looks to be anybody’s game.

Athletic, Sociedad, Mirandes and Granada will contest the two semi-finals, with the draw made on Friday.

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It will be the first time since 2003 neither one of Barca, Madrid, Valencia or Atletico Madrid will feature in the last four.

There was already a fresh feel to the competition, as the two-legged ties of the past were replaced with one-off elimination games up to the semi-final stage.

“We deserved to go through, but this is the new Copa,” Busquets added. “In one isolated moment, it can slip away from you.

“A fateful ending after all that happened. That’s football.

“One cross has ended up in the back of the net. We’d managed the game well; we knew how to suffer but one detail and you’re gone.”

Barca may at least take some solace from the fact elimination from the Copa clears some space in the schedule for a squad decimated by injuries.

The loss of Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele, and the failure to bring in any first-team players in January have left new manager Quique Setien working with a skeleton squad.

They now move on to league games with Real Betis, Getafe and Eibar, before the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Napoli on 25 February.

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