BARCELONA, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Barcelona beat Valencia 1-0 on Thursday thanks to a diving header from insatiable striker Luis Suarez to stay on course for a place in the King’s Cup final for a record fifth consecutive year.
Suarez broke Valencia’s resolve in the semi-final first leg by leaping to meet a cross from Lionel Messi in the 67th minute, scoring a 12th goal in 10 games in all competitions to leave Valencia needing to win by two goals in next Thursday’s second leg at Mestalla.
Despite being a Cup semi-final against one of the top teams in the league, only 50,000 fans made it to Barca’s 99,000-capacity Nou Camp stadium after heavy rain throughout the day.
Barca defender Sergi Roberto risked getting sent off but was only booked for a wild lunge on Andreas Pereira, who was unable to come out in the second half and had to be substituted.
Valencia were trounced 7-0 on their last Cup visit to Barcelona when Gary Neville was in charge and coach Marcelino opted for a cautious approach.
The visitors’ best chances came from distance strikes at goal, with Martin Montoya and Francis Coquelin narrowly missing the target either side of halftime. (Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond)