Barcelona were denied an unprecedented fifth successive Copa del Rey crown as they lost 2-1 to Valencia in Saturday's final, heaping the pressure on under-fire coach Ernesto Valverde.
Having had a realistic chance at a treble just a few weeks ago, Barca finish the season with only the league title to show for their efforts, a situation likely to increase Valverde's unpopularity among supporters.
Barca were way off their best in the first half at the Benito Villamarin and deservedly found themselves trailing 2-0 at the break, as Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo Moreno clinically punished the defending champions.
Valverde's men pushed forward desperately after the break and Lionel Messi pulled one back shortly after being denied by the post, but their dominance proved futile as Valencia held on to win the Copa for the first time since 2008.
The warning signs were there for Barca after just five minutes, as Gameiro pressured Clement Lenglet into a wayward pass at the back and Rodrigo pounced, skipping past Jasper Cillessen and seeing his effort blocked on the line by Gerard Pique.
Neither Cillessen nor Pique could spare Barca 16 minutes later, however, as Jose Gaya charged forward on the break and picked out Gameiro, who shook off Jordi Alba and blasted home.
Rodrigo doubled the lead just past the half-hour mark, heading in Carlos Soler's inch-perfect cross from close range.
Malcom and Arturo Vidal were introduced for Nelson Semedo and Arthur at half-time, as Barca pushed for a comeback.
Messi remained the one to watch, though, hitting the left-hand post with a gorgeous outside-of-the-boot effort just before the hour after a one-two with Malcom.
But he was not to be denied in the 73rd minute, as Messi tapped in after Lenglet's header came back off the upright.
Valencia squandered two chances to finish Barca off on the break deep into stoppage time, as Goncalo Guedes put wide when one-on-one and also missed an open goal from distance, but they held on to consign Barca to a disappointing end of the season.
What does it mean? Valverde's future surely in doubt
If Valverde's popularity was not already a matter for debate, it certainly is now. With a LaLiga and Copa double, you could justifiably see him hanging on to the job for another season, but now things look a little cloudier, particularly given the increasing fan criticism of his leadership.
Arguably the only thing saving him at the moment is Messi's apparent backing.
Rodrigo and Gameiro lead by example
They got the goals, but Rodrigo and Gameiro did so much more as well. The pair led the line brilliantly, never giving Barca's defence a moment's rest, while their link-up play – with each other and the rest of the team – was exceptional.
Clement's long day
It started poorly for Lenglet, as the Frenchman made an awful error after just five minutes from which Valencia should have scored. He rarely looked comfortable thereafter, with Gameiro and Rodrigo giving him the runaround.
Key Opta Facts:
- Valencia are the second team to win the Copa del Rey title in the same year they celebrate their 100th anniversary, after Espanyol in 2000.
- Lionel Messi has become the first player in Copa del Rey history to score in six different finals (seven goals).
- Valencia have won their eighth Copa del Rey title, the first one since 2008, under Ronald Koeman (3-1 against Getafe at Vicente Calderon).
- Barcelona have lost the first one-legged final in which Lionel Messi has scored (16 goals in 13 finals).
- Valencia's Marcelino has won his first managerial game against Barcelona in all competitions, after 21 matches (W1 D6 L14).
Given they finished the season with just one trophy, a big close-season awaits Barca. There are doubts about Valverde's suitability, while their squad is short in a number of areas, such as centre-forward and full-back. As for Valencia, if they can keep hold of their star players and bolster their squad for the Champions League, they will be confident of another promising campaign next term.
|Argentina lucky to be alive at Copa America – Scaloni|
|Mexico 3 Canada 1: Guardado brace preserves Martino´s 100 per cent record|
|Lightning´s Nikita Kucherov caps off season with Hart Trophy|
|Argentina 1 Paraguay 1: Messi scores but Copa America exit looms|
|World Rugby scraps Nations Championship plans|
|Sanchez left with ´bad taste´ after Qatar´s loss to Colombia|
|Salah among world´s best three players – Elmohamady|
|NBA Draft 2019: Three players with boom or bust potential|
|Colombia 1 Qatar 0: Zapata heads in late winner|
|NBA Draft 2019: Five second-round sleepers|
|NBA Draft 2019: Three players who will be selected too early|
|NBA Draft 2019: Six things we learned from Zion Williamson´s interview|
|NBA Draft 2019: What will Warriors do with pick 28?|
|Injured Del Potro withdraws at Queen´s, Lopez into last eight|
|We´ll wait and see - Jorginho agent not ruling out Juventus move|
|Women´s World Cup Review: Argentina and VAR dump Scotland out as England top Group D|
|Lopez strongly denies match-fixing allegations|
|Defending champion Coric comes through Halle thriller|
|Australia v Bangladesh: Carey and co target dangerman Shakib|
|Euro U21s Review: Fornals stunner gets Spain off the mark, Poland shock Italy|
|Argentina make Women´s World Cup history with stunning Scotland comeback|
|Sevastova cruises past Tomljanovic at Mallorca Open|
|Celtic could face Nomme Kalju or Shkendija in Champions League qualifying|
|New Zealand skipper Williamson hails De Grandhomme innings|
|Inter complete Politano deal|
|Coutinho unsure over Barcelona future|
|Luis Enrique grateful for privacy after leaving Spain role|
|Bayern looking forward to signing Sane, claims Lewandowski|
|Every win will be yours – Spain captain Ramos pays tribute to Luis Enrique|
|Masterful Williamson nudges South Africa closer to World Cup exit|
|Unfortunate Del Potro suffers another knee injury|
|F1 Raceweek: Vettel under pressure - French GP in numbers|
|Police arrest man on suspicion of manslaughter over Sala death|
|Baines signs Everton extension|
|AC Milan appoint Giampaolo as head coach|
|Is Mats Hummels still an elite defender?|
|Barcelona to face Napoli in first LaLiga Serie A Cup|
|Pant cleared to join India squad at World Cup after Dhawan blow|
|Ancelotti wants James Rodriguez, confirms Napoli chief De Laurentiis|
|Uruguay v Japan: Laxalt expects tough clash in Porto Alegre|
|Hummels set to join Gotze in returning to Dortmund|
|Who is new Spain coach Robert Moreno?|
|Bamba out with ankle injury after Choudhury challenge|
|Juan Mata agrees two-year extension at Manchester United|
|Assistant coach Terry extends Aston Villa contract|
|Nowell expected to be fit for World Cup following ankle surgery|
|Walker joins Silva, Sterling, Ederson and more in committing to City|
|AFC Champions League Review: Hwang strike gives Ulsan advantage|
|Saracens to face Munster, Racing and Ospreys in tough Champions Cup pool|
|Super League clubs alarmed by England and Great Britain coach Bennett´s NRL claim|
|Mendy opens up on ´incredible´ journey from career-ending operation to Real Madrid|
|Moreno replaces Luis Enrique as Spain coach|
|Walker pens two-year Manchester City extension to 2024|
|Dortmund agree deal for Hummels return|
|Amla reaches ODI landmark at World Cup|
|Neymar Champions League ban appeal rejected|
|India lose batsman Dhawan for rest of World Cup campaign|
|Scholes fined £8,000 by FA over betting breaches|
|Simmons promises answers on Afghan amid apparent row with selector|
|´Out of control´ Lorenzo told to calm down after crash|
|Marquinhos urges ´team-mate and friend´ Neymar to remain at PSG|
|I´m not looking to fill LeBron´s shoes - Williamson wants to ´be the best Zion´|
|Paraguay´s Messi challenge outlined by Berizzo|
|All Blacks ace Ben Smith back and ´100 per cent´ fit|
|Warriors great Vatuvei diagnosed with brain cyst|
|Brazil can cope without Neymar - Tite defends Selecao stars|
|Tigers tie Thompson to new two-year contract|
|Thomas needs ´big training rides´ to make up for crash|
|Maradona had better Argentina team-mates than Messi, says Capello|
|2019 Africa Cup of Nations: Fit and firing Salah carries hopes of hosts Egypt|