Barca make hard work of Cornella
Barcelona made it safely into the last 16 of the Copa del Rey but they sure made hard work of Cornella and were forced to play extra-time for the third time in nine days which is not exactly what you want at this point in the season.
Ronald Koeman did get to rest Frenkie de Jong, Jordi Alba, and Marc-Andre ter Stegen, while captain Lionel Messi got the night off because of suspension and Sergino Dest was sidelined with a thigh problem.
Importantly Barca didn’t pick up any new injuries despite being forced to call on the cavalry. Regulars Ousmane Dembele, Pedri, and Sergio Busquets all arrived to try and swing the game in Barca’s favor.
Pedri and Dembele were probably the pick of the bench for Barca, although credit also goes to Ronald Araujo for another strong performance at center-back.
Barca eventually found a way through, and thus avoided joining Real Madrid and Atletico in suffering embarrassing exits, but this is not a game anyone will want to remember in a hurry.
Do Barca practice penalties?
Of course, Barca could have made life far easier for themselves if they had scored a first-half penalty after Araujo had been fouled. Miralem Pjanic, who was making a rare start, stepped up but saw his kick saved.
Barca then got another chance after Clement Lenglet won a penalty in the second half. This time it was Dembele’s job to take the kick but again he failed and so Barca’s really poor record from the penalty spot this season continues...
Unsurprisingly Ronald Koeman, who knows a thing or two about taking penalties, fumed about his team’s spot-kick efforts after the match saying “it can’t be accepted.” Fortunately for Barca, the misses did not cost the team the game but they really must do better.
More misery for Riqui
Thursday also saw more misery for Riqui Puig on a night that initially offered plenty of hope for the youngster. The 21-year-old was finally in the starting XI for the first time this season under Koeman.
However, Puig only lasted 45 minutes as Koeman made the surprise decision to take him off at half-time and replace him with Ousmane Dembele. The Barca coach explained the substitution after the match.
“I wanted to have two open wings and more depth. So we put Antoine behind Braithwaite with two wingers. Riqui already had a card and that is why we have changed him.”
It was a tough call on Puig after a tight first half where none of the Barca players impressed against a committed and determined Cornella side. Let’s hope he gets another chance to shine next week in the next round.
Ilaix makes Barca debut
Another player who could get another run out in the Copa del Rey is 18-year-old Ilaix Moriba who made his senior debut against Cornella. The 18 -year-old certainly didn’t look out of place during his 74 minutes on the pitch and will have done his first-team chances no harm.
It caps a memorable week for Ilaix who celebrated his 18th birthday on Tuesday and admitted after the game he’d been so excited about the match he had barely been able to sleep.
Koeman spoke briefly about Moriba too after the match, describing the teenager as “ important for the future of the club.”
Konrad outshines Trincao
Konrad de la Fuente was another Barca B player to enjoy some game time against Cornella and did more in his brief time on the pitch that Francisco Trincao managed as a starter.
Trincao was named in the starting XI and handed a great chance to try and impress after a tricky start to life at Barca. However, once again Trincao offered very little, aside from a volleyed effort on goal, and failed to seize his chance.
Pedri was sent on for Trincao and showed his class to help Barca to the win, while Konrad was only given the last 20 minutes but still did enough to catch the eye. The forward was a little unlucky not to score and enjoyed a lively cameo.