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Barcelona gives Guardiola perfect sendoff with 3-0 rout of Athletic in Copa del Rey final
MADRID (AP) ' Barcelona provided Pep Guardiola with the perfect send-off by thrashing Athletic Bilbao 3-0 in the Copa del Rey final on Friday to earn the club's most successful coach a 14th trophy.
Pedro Rodriguez scored either side of Lionel Messi's 73rd goal of the season as the Catalan club demonstrated the virtues ' quick-touch passing, intricate combinations and clinical finishing ' that marked Guardiola's four seasons at the helm.
Barcelona's record 26th domestic cup gave the bittersweet season some shine as its fourth title of the season made up some for its failure to repeat as Champions League and Spanish league winners.
"We had a very good year, we won four titles and winning this cup gives them better value," Guardiola said. "I'm happy to close out the season this way."
Athletic's chase for its first silverware since 1984 again faltered as the young Basque team showed little improvement from the side routed 3-0 by Atletico Madrid in the Europa League finale this month, leaving a revelatory season under coach Marcelo Bielsa without spoils.
Pedro likely secured a spot in Spain's 23-man Euro 2012 squad after scoring in the third and 25th minutes, five minutes after Messi extended his unprecedented European season goal tally.
The fans filling the 55,000-seat Calderon Stadium were united moments before the start as Catalan and Basque spectators jeered the playing of the Spanish anthem, just as they did in Valencia three years ago when Barcelona's 4-1 win over Bilbao provided Guardiola with his maiden title.
Barcelona won the Club World Cup, European Super Cup and Spanish Super Cup this season to make it 14 of a possible 19 titles for the 41-year-old coach ' who will be replaced by assistant Tito Vilanova ' since taking charge in 2008.
"I feel like I left some good things behind for the club and that others will continue the good work," Guardiola said.
His defense coped without injured trio Carles Puyol, Eric Abidal and Daniel Alves, while Pedro got the nod in attack over Cesc Fabregas.
Bielsa pushed Javi Martinez up from centerback in a bid to contain Messi, but that strategy failed miserably as Barcelona went ahead early and Bilbao looked nothing like the team that beat Manchester United and Schalke this year.
"I envisioned and prepared a game where we look to be protagonists with intensity, dynamism, and today we weren't able to achieve that," said Bielsa, who revealed nothing about his future with his contract about to expire. "We didn't plan right."
Barcelona opened when Ibai Gomez failed to clear Gerard Pique's flick-on from a corner kick, with Pedro well-positioned inside the area to slot home.
Messi, who curled just wide in the opening stages, received an exquisite cross pass from Andres Iniesta and the Argentina forward fired with his weaker right foot over goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz into the roof of goal.
The only other player to have scored 70 goals in a first-division season was Archie Stark of Bethlehem Steel in the American Soccer League in 1924-25.
Barcelona's high pressure and up-tempo play were rewarded with a third goal as Xavi Hernandez laid off for Pedro to scream a low roller beyond the fingertips of the diving Iraizoz.
"I'm very happy because it's been a tough and difficult year for me," said Pedro, who found himself on the substitute's bench for much of the season.
Bilbao had chances from the close of the first-half when Barcelona 'keeper Jose Manuel Pinto saved from Iker Muniain after turning it over, while Ibai Gomez shot wide at an open goal in the 53rd. But the Basque side was clearly outmatched as Iraizoz stuck out a foot to deny Messi late on.
None of the up to 10 Spain internationals between the teams were seriously injured, although Xavi limped off to be replaced by Fabregas in the 81st. Spain opens its European Championship title defense against Italy in just over two weeks.
The victory ensured a second straight Spanish Super Cup clasico in August when Barcelona will play league champion Real Madrid.