In what can only be described as a snooze-fest, Barcelona traveled to Villanovense, from the Segunda Division B, with a very different team, only to be blanked by a spirited home side that all things considering found it very easy to keep Barcelona off the board, leaving everything to play for in the return leg at the Camp Nou in early December.
|Shots on Target||1
As expected considering the opponent and all the injury problems, Luis Enrique sent out a very changed starting XI. The only part of the team even slightly resembling the first team was the defense where Douglas Pereira, Marc Bartra, Thomas Vermaelen and Jeremy Mathieu started in front of surprise starter Jordi Masip. The midfield consisted of three Barcelona B players; Sergi Samper, Gerard Gumbau and Wilfrid Kaptoum. In attack, youngsters Sandro Ramirez and Munir El Haddadi were joined by Adriano Correia.
Playing in front of a packed crowd at the Romero Cuerda stadium, which had its capacity almost tripled solely for this match, Barcelona dominated the ball. As expected against a third division team, even a severely shorthanded Barcelona team should have more than enough technical ability to control the ball for the majority of the game. But expecting a side like Villanovense, who were absolutely thrilled to get drawn with Barcelona, to roll over and allow Barcelona free reign it their defensive zone would've been silly.
Barcelona were without a shadow of a doubt the better of the two teams on the pitch, but the youngster-filled Barcelona lineup had similar problems as their more experienced teammates often have as well - sending that useful final pass to a dangerous position from where somebody could score...
Barcelona struggled with that so much that they didn't fire their first shot, albeit off target, until the 17th minute, roughly ten minutes after Villanovense's first shot of the game, which was also off target. Barcelona's first attempt came courtesy of Gumbau, but it whistled past José Fuentes' left post. Two minutes later, the hosts had a legitimately strong chance to take the lead, but Masip made the stop.
Barcelona continued to struggle on the pitch, with the midfield experiencing the most problems, leaving the three forwards often cut off from the action. Just about the only times in the first half the forwards got involved in the game was on free kicks, but even then they couldn't get any shots on goal, though Munir did get a good look in the 31st minute, but he was unable to capitalize on the scramble in the penalty area and missed the target badly.
The last minutes of the half were all Villanovense, who were far from intimidated by hosting the treble winners at their stadium. The hosts went through a strong stretch that included several corner kicks in succession, from one of which Villanovense managed to graze the crossbar.
The fact that Villanovense were fairly easily managing to get into the danger areas coupled with the fact that Barcelona couldn't hit the broad side of the barn from long range and couldn't get close under any circumstances, were forcing Lucho to make faces rarely seen on the Barcelona bench. The expressions on Lucho's face weren't getting any more pleasant in the second half as Barcelona continued to struggle while the hosts continued to threaten from corner kicks, where Masip often seemed unsure how to handle high balls.
The lack of creativity is Barcelona's attack was arguably the most concerning area of this match as even with all the youngsters in the team, the Catalans shouldn't have this many problems with Villanovense. It took Barcelona almost 20 minutes to come close to Fuentes' goal, but Sandro's shot from the edge still didn't force the keeper to make the save. The very next minute Lucho made his first substitution of the game, taking off Kaptoum and replacing him with Aitor Cantalapiedra. Moments later, Samper created the visitors' best chance of the second half, but Sandro's shot was held by Fuentes.
In all, the second half was very much like the first one, as Barcelona continued to dominate possession, but Villanovense's excellent, yet strong, tacking often quickly stopped Barça's attacks. The fact that Barcelona's passing was all too often off target didn't help Barcelona's chance creation either. There were glimpses of good play, like the pass from Samper to create Sandro's second chance of the half, but that's all they were - glimpses.
To say that either team created anything really noteworthy in the second half would be a stretch, though Bartra did manage to test the goalkeeper in the 85th minute with a strong header. It seems that Lucho will have to include a few more first team regulars in the return leg at the Camp Nou if Barcelona don't want to exit the Copa del Rey in embarrassing fashion. Now back to the La Liga.
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