FC Barcelona cruised to a relatively easy win away to CE L'Hospitalet in the Copa del Rey. Andres Iniesta scored the only goal with a fine long-range effort, and Barcelona were never really threatened by their lower-division opponents. That being said, it should have been a more dominant display from the Blaugrana considering the talent on the pitch.
Pep Guardiola opted for a strong starting eleven featuring Cesc Fabregas, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol and David Villa, but it still took Barcelona a while to hit their stride. The Astroturf pitch was causing a few problems for the usual passing game, but as one would expect, it did not take too long to overcome.
Jose Pinto got his start, but started a little shaky, not displaying the usual quality of distribution expected from a FC Barcelona goalkeeper. The first chance fell to Barcelona and David Villa, as the Spaniard let fly with his left boot, forcing a fine diving save from the Hospitalet keeper, who pushed the ball round the post for a corner kick.
The next shot came on 15 minutes from Andres Iniesta as he fired over from 25 yards. It was more a warning shot than anything, coming fairly close, but never troubling the keeper. Hospitalet were defending well, keeping shape and pressuring at the right times, credit to Jordi Vinyals there, but it seemed as though some of the Barca players were treating this as a training game.
Hospitalet had a half-chance with a well-hit free kick that made Pinto work, but ultimately never posed a threat. That being said neither were the Blaugrana. Cesc Fabregas was guilty of missing a couple of decent chances, while Seydou Keita did test the keeper with a driven effort that was headed for the top corner. Long-range efforts are all well and good, but this was Barcelona, and I expected a little more cutting edge.
Then came the breakthrough. Andres Iniesta, 25 yards out, and an effortless swing of his right leg before the ball bulleted into the top corner. Que Golazo indeed from Iniesta, it was what Barcelona had been waiting for, and indeed what they needed. Carles Puyol hit the post with a trademark header, were the floodgates going to open? Could Hospitalet hold on?
Hospitalet started the second half well, but it was again Barcelona who were creating the chances. David Villa was looking for a goal, and his effort from a free-kick was well struck, but ultimately caused no problems for Moragon in the Hospitalet goal.
The Segunda B3 side had won their last five games and were not letting Barca run them ragged, but one has to wonder how much the Barca players wanted this game, especially with so many likely to play in that prestige friendly for Spain on Saturday.
Still David Villa was trying to for that elusive goal, exchanging a one-two before firing just wide. It was good interplay, although the finish did not match. Sergio Busquets was introduced just after the hour mark for the goal-scorer Andres Iniesta, and it was lovely to hear the ovation for the World Cup winner, even if it was a less than packed stadium.
The Blaugrana were going through the motions, and Cesc Fabregas in particular was under-performing. Seydou Keita did well to pull a cross back for the former Arsenal captain, but he dragged his shot wide of the mark. It was not Cesc’s best display, though I cannot understand why. He should be motivated regardless of opposition, and seemed to coast through this match on reputation alone before being replaced by Rafinha Alcantara late on.
El Guaje again tested Moragon with a swerving free-kick before Hospitalet got their best (and only) chance of the evening. Hitting their illustrious opponents on the counter-attack space opened up for Marc Pedraza, and after receiving the lay-off he fired at goal, only to be denied by a acrobatic save from Jose Pinto. It was a fine effort, but Pinto made it look closer than it really was.
There was still time for Villa to have yet another shot, but this time his effort was deflected to force Moragon into a top-notch save and Hospitalet tried to engineer a chance for the equaliser to no avail.
It was an average performance by Barcelona, but one which got the job part-way done. With the second leg at the Camp Nou just before X-Mas, there should be no problems whatsoever and we can expect to see the Blaugrana in the next round.
Man of the match goes to Andres Iniesta for his superb strike and flawless control, but kudos to David Villa and let’s hope this is just the first step on the road to recovering his form. Onto the international break, where most of the Barcelona players will be in action somewhere, most notably at Wembley with Spain vs England, before returning to domestic action against Real Zaragoza on the 19th.
Visca el Barca!