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Luis Enrique opted for an eleven made up largely of fringe players in Wednesday’s cup opener, and the whole team shone as they made their superiority tell against their lower division opponent. Although most pundits had expected the Asturian to play Masip in goal, it was Ter Stegen who finally got the nod, while the game was also used to give Andrés Iniesta his first run-out after a 40-day absence through injury.
On a cold evening in Aragón, it was apparent from the start that there was a gulf in class between the two teams, and it took just eleven minutes for the Catalans to take the lead. Ivan Rakitic, who had an outstanding first half, placed an absolutely perfect free kick around the wall and into the back of the net. Just five minutes later, a magnificent piece of team football was finished off by Iniesta with a powerful strike from the edge of the area - his first goal of the season.
2-0 down after just a quarter of an hour, Huesca could no longer afford to sit back and defend. And their more positive approach almost paid off when their liveliest player, Guillem, collected a cross to go on-on-one with Ter Stegen, but the German managed to get a foot to the ball.
Pedro makes it three
There was still time for Barça to all but settle the match with a third goal after 38 minutes when a terrific through ball from Iniesta found Pedro. The Canary Islander made no mistake and placed a perfect strike past Huesca keeper Dani Jiménez.
The second half followed a very different script. Throwing caution to the wind somewhat, the home side almost had as many shots as the visitors, but some rock solid defending and some fine interventions from Ter Stegen managed to deal expertly with everything that came their way.
With 26 minutes left on the clock, Luis Enrique opted to send on Edgar Ié on for Jérémy Mathieu, thus marking the Guinea-Bissau born defender’s official debut for Barça.
After 71 minutes, Rafinha extended Barça’s lead with a shot from the edge of the area that deflected off a defender. It was the Brazilian’s first ever official goal for the first team.
Huesca keep battling
The win now beyond doubt, Barça could afford to ease off for the last quarter of an hour, while Huesca desperately lunged forward in search of a consolation goal. And they very nearly got it. Esnáider came close from long range, then Guillem was blocked by Douglas just before he could shoot as part of the same move that saw Esnáider denied by a fine Ter Stegen save, and Guillem was ideally poised before a tremendous tackle from Bartra prevented him from shooting.
It was certainly a plucky performance from the Aragonese outfit, but ultimately they were outdone by a Barça side was simply a class above them. There’s still the second leg on December 16, but after tonight’s comfortable 4-0 win, that now looks like being a mere formality.
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