Barcelona are safely through to the Copa del Rey Round of 16, but it wasn’t easy as the Blaugrana needed 120 minutes of action to defeat Third Division Intercity 4-3 in extra-time in a wild game in the city of Alicante. The Blaugrana scored early but never put the game away, and allowed their visitors to come back time and time again before Ansu Fati scored the winner in extra-time to give his team a spot in the next round of the Spanish Cup.
Barça did the one thing teams should do in games against lower level teams that want to park the bus and cause an upset: score early. Ronald Araujo needed just four minutes to score on his return, heading home a corner from Pablo Torre to give the Blaugrana the early lead.
Araujo was involved in the other major moment of the half when Piñán went on a one-man counter-attack for Intercity, rounded Iñaki Peña and passed the ball towards the net for what seemed like an easy goal, but big Ronald came out of nowhere after a 50-yard sprint to deny the goal with an amazing sliding goal-line clearance.
After that scare it was all Barça for the rest of the half, and the Blaugrana had several moments where they came close to creating a real chance, but they lacked the final ball in the final third to truly unlock the Intercity defense. They almost scored twice on set pieces, and Ferran Torres missed a huge chance before halftime.
At the break Barça were ahead and looking pretty comfortable against a poor team, but they still needed to build on the one-goal lead to finish the job in the second half.
Intercity switched from a back five to a more attacking 4-4-2 formation at halftime as they sensed the opportunity to get back in the game against a Barça side not at their best. They were overwhelmingly the better side in the first 60 minutes, pressing high up the pitch and playing with huge intensity while Barça struggled to complete simple passes in midfield.
The hosts deserved a goal, and they got it when a corner into the box wasn’t cleared by the Barça defense and fell to former Barça academy player Oriol Soldevila who scored a nice volley to make it 1-1 with 30 minutes to go.
Barça needed a big wake-up call to get back in control of the game, and they stepped up the pace enough to go ahead once again, after a beautiful assist from Gavi and a great finish from Ousmane Dembélé who chipped the keeper to put the Blaugrana in front.
But Intercity didn’t give up and once again got back in the game after a cross from Romero found the head of Soldevila who scored his second on the night and set up an electric finish in the final 15 minutes.
The Blaugrana responded immediately to go ahead once again when a cross from Jordi Alba was met by Raphinha at the far post, but the feeling was still that this one was far from over and Intercity would give everything they had to force extra-time.
The hosts had a huge chance when a one-two in the box put Soldevilla one-on-one with Iñaki Peña to complete his hat-trick, but the Barça keeper made a massive save. Barça almost made it 4-2 with Raphinha, but Campos kept his team in it.
That saved proved crucial as Intercity found the equalizer in the 86th minute after Marcos Alonso lost an easy ball in midfield and Soldevila completed a hat-trick and made it 3-3 in Alicante.
Barça had very little time to find a winner and avoid extra-time, but Intercity stayed strong at the back and survived until the final whistle to force an unlikely bonus period.
Barça dominated the first half of extra-time and were very much on top of proceedings, attacking with plenty of bodies and trying to find spaces inside a tight defense. It took them almost 15 minutes, but they finally found the go-ahead goal when a perfect cross from Raphinha along the groun was smashed home by Ansu Fati, who made it 4-3 and gave Barça a crucial lead to defend in the final 15 minutes.
Intercity seemed exhausted ahead of the second half of extra-time after all the effort during the first 90 minutes, and they couldn’t maintain the intensity necessary to keep up with Barça. The visitors continued to have the ball and came close to a fifth a couple of times, but didn’t put the game away and still gave the hosts a shot in the dying seconds.
But Intercity couldn’t create a chance to get another equalizer, and the final whistle came to end a tough night for Barça who didn’t need to go through so much trouble against a Third Division team, but showed good fighting spirit and scored the necessary goals to secure the win and a spot in the Last Sixteen.
Intercity: Campos; Jaime (Nsue 82’), Murria, Pérez (Angong 94’), Gálvez (Herrera 46’), Romero; Soldevila, Belotti (Undabarrena 82’), Marí; Roigé (Koffi 65’), Piñán (Xemi 67’)
Goals: Soldevila (59’, 74’, 86’)
Barcelona: Peña; Bellerín (Alonso 83’), Araujo (Eric 60’), Kounde, Alba; Kessie, Busquets, Torre (Gavi 60’); Dembélé (Balde 105’), Ferran (Raphinha 60’), Memphis (Fati 74’)
Goals: Araujo (4’), Dembélé (67’), Raphinha (77’), Fati (104’)