In their 2017-18 Copa del Rey debut, Barcelona came out victorious against Real Murcia by a score of 3-0 with goals coming either late in the first half or early in the second. Paco Alcacer opened the scoring while Gerard Deulofeu and Jose Arnaiz finished the job off in the second half.
As expected, Barcelona fielded a much changed starting eleven at the Nueva Condomina stadium. For the first time in what seems like ages, Thomas Vermaelen started in defense and Denis Suarez in midfield. Two Barcelona B youngsters received their chance from the opening minute, Carles Alena in midfield and Arnaiz on the wing. Paco Alcacer also received a very rare start, while Jasper Cillessen saw his first action of the season.
With Real Murcia plying their trade in the Spanish third division, the Segunda Division B, anything but total domination from the Catalan side would be a big surprise, even with a “watered down” lineup. The opening minutes certainly signaled just that as Barcelona dominated possession and play, but the home defense was able to hold the Catalans to the perimeter, not allowing a single half-chance, let alone a good scoring opportunity.
Surprisingly, Murcia would create the first chance for either side, in the 11th minute. It came after a long free kick that was poorly cleared, leading to a chance from a close range header, but the ball went just wide of Cillessen’s right post. The hosts’ goalkeeper, Alejandro Santome, had to make his first play three minutes later, coming after a lovely run and cross down the left side from Lucas Digne meant for Alcacer, but after the Spanish striker missed the ball, Santome was left with an easy pick-up.
Barcelona continued to press forward, looking to create anything, with Digne and Gerard Deulofeu looking the liveliest. Debutant Arnaiz also showed flashes, as did Alena, but support from the likes of Alcacer, Denis and Gomes was lacking. Still, Barcelona came very close to opening the scoring in the 22nd minute. A perfect cross was sent into the middle from a corner kick where Vermaelen eluded his marker and was left with a tap-in into the empty net, but the Belgian defender couldn’t direct the ball on target.
Despite Barcelona’s domination, Murcia proved dangerous on the counter attack, as excellently evidenced in the 28th minute when a lightning quick counter, thankfully, ended with a shot over the crossbar. The hosts proved to be very dangerous on such attacks, but the Barcelona defense did well to prevent a goal, though with some better reactions from the Murcia players in attack the story could’ve been different.
While Murcia were offering very good resistance, they started to fade in the dying moments of the first half, something Barcelona were quick to punish. The visitors came very close to opening the scoring in the 40th minute with Alcacer heading Deulofeu’s cross on goal, but Santome made an excellent save. From the rebound Denis fired from a good spot over the crossbar. Four minutes later, Barcelona finally took the lead. Deulofeu sent another perfect cross from the right side, again to Alcacer, who headed the ball back across goal, catching the goalkeeper on the wrong foot, securing the lead just moments before the break.
The second half brought much of the same, with Barcelona controlling the ball and attacking while the hosts were waiting for the chance to start a counter attack. But while Barcelona struggled to create much in the first half, they needed just seven minutes to add to the lead, after a brilliant solo goal from Deulofeu. The La Masia graduate received the ball on the right wing before dribbling past several defenders and firing a calm shot under the goalkeeper just inside the far post.
Four minutes later it was 3-0, with Arnaiz scoring on his debut. The 22-year-old winger, arriving from Real Valladolid at the start of the season for €3.4 million, took a couple steps from the left side to the middle before powering the ball on goal, just out of the reach of the goalkeeper to all but put this tie to rest.
Not much changed with the big lead on the scoreboard as Barcelona continued to attack down both wings, while the hosts looked for the counter. After scoring two quick goals one could’ve thought the floodgates would’ve opened, but that was not the case. In fact, it would be Murcia who would have the better looks on goal. First, in the 71st minute, Cillessen made two excellent close range saves to preserve the clean sheet. In the 84th minute, Elady Zorrilla was played behind the Barcelona defense for a one-on-one with Cillessen, but the Dutchman made yet another fabulous save.
In between those two golden scoring opportunities, Ernesto Valverde made all three substitutions. In the 76th minute Ivan Rakitić and Sergi Roberto took the places of Deulofeu and Alena. In the 83rd Digne went off the pitch and was replaced by Marc Cucurella, who like Arnaiz, was also making his Barcelona debut.
Barcelona pressed once more during the final minutes of the match, with Denis taking two shots on goal and Alcacer also trying his luck from the left side, but the score would remain the same. Barcelona will look to finish the job in the second leg at the Camp Nou in late November at a date and time that has not yet been determined. Next up for Barcelona is a difficult trip to the San Mames on Saturday.