FC Barcelona have some work to do in the second leg of their Copa del Rey round of 32 tie with Villanovense after the plucky third tier side managed to hold them to a surprise 0-0 draw on Wednesday night.
Luis Enrique opted for a very different starting line-up to the Barça team we are used to, with Douglas at right back and Masip in goal getting their first starts of the season. The promising young Cameroonian Wilfrid Kaptoum made his first team debut in midfield in partnership with Gumbau and Samper, while Adriano was fielded in an unfamiliar attacking role alongside Sandro Ramírez and Munir.
Barça may be the European champions while lowly Villanovense ply their trade in Division 2B, but the gulf between the teams was rarely apparent in Extremadura tonight. The Catalans never quite managed to settle, and rather than sit back and defend, the home side had clearly come out to play ball too. Plenty of chances went begging at both ends, but there was little to truly trouble either keeper until the half-hour mark, when Munir was well positioned to convert a rebound but sent the ball way over.
As the half progressed, Villanovense grew in confidence and the crowd in the Romero Cuerda were loving every moment of it. And with four minutes of the half remaining they very nearly had a goal to celebrate too when Javi Sánchez met a corner and his scissor-kick skimmed just over the bar. The half ended with no score and Barça seriously struggling to make their superiority show.
There was a lot more urgency to Barça’s style after the break, but despite dominating a massive 75% of the possession, there was nothing in the way of clear-cut chances until Sandro fired a screaming shot from the edge of the area that only just failed to find the target. But rather than send on any of the big names sitting on his bench, Luis Enrique preferred to continue putting his faith in youth, his only change of the whole game being to replace Kaptoum with another first team debutant, Aitor Cantalapiedra.
The minutes crawled by without major incident. The closest either side came to breaking the deadlock was Bartra’s header on 85 minutes that Fuentes deftly flicked over the bar. The Villanovense keeper was very much the local hero in the closing minutes with two more fine interventions before the final whistle blew and his team could join their fans as they revelled in a famous draw.
But as far as the tie is concerned, we’re only halfway there. And despite the failure to win in Villanueva de la Serena, Barça still have everything in their favour going into the second leg at the Camp Nou.