Madrid: A depleted Barcelona reached the King`s Cup semi-finals with a 6-3 aggregate win over Real Betis despite losing second leg to the second division leaders.
Barca thrashed Seville-based Betis 5-0 in last week`s first leg at the Nou Camp and coach Pep Guardiola rested several first-choice players, including World Cup-winners David Villa, Sergio Busquets and Pedro, for the return which they lost 3-1.
The 2009 winners were reeling when Jorge Molina netted twice in the first seven minutes before World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, who had been largely anonymous until then, scored a trademark breakaway goal in the 38th.
Betis midfielder Arzu hooked the ball into the net on the stroke of halftime to revive the home side`s slim hopes and they were further lifted when Messi scuffed a penalty over the crossbar shortly after the break.
The Betis players were clearly tiring as the match wore on and they were unable to match the aggression and drive they had shown in the first half as Barca survived to book a last-four meeting with Almeria.
Despite their elimination, the home fans, who have seen their financially-troubled club slide into administration, were relishing their moment back in the limelight and enjoying their team`s performance, which suggested they will be worthy opponents if they seal promotion this season.
"Being from the second division it was a privilege to play against Barcelona," Molina said in a television interview.
"The idea was to make the most of it and I think the supporters enjoyed it tonight and we did too," he added.
"We have to separate ourselves from (the financial problems) and focus on achieving our goal of getting back into the first division."