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Cup games are never easy, no matter who the opposition, and Barça were made to sweat before sealing passage to the last sixteen of the Copa del Rey against a third tier club from the outskirts of their own city. Cornellà, whose stadium is actually closer to the Barça training ground than the Camp Nou, proved a tremendous opponent, and most particularly their goalkeeper Ramón, whose two penalty saves meant it took 120 minutes rather than 90 for Barça to finally secure the win.
Ilaix makes debut
Cornellà had already shown their worth in the previous round of this competition by eliminating Atlético Madrid, but Ronald Koeman still opted to rest several of his more regular faces for this fixture. That meant the first start of the campaign for Riqui Puig, another chance for Neto in goal and Ilaix Moriba becoming the third youngster to make his debut under the Dutchman.
Despite needing some time to get used to the artificial surface, Barça generally had the better of the game from the off. But making that their superiority tell proved quite some task against a side that, as expected, were giving more than 100% in the biggest game of their lives.
Ramón had already been tested several times, particularly by a fine chance for Francisco Trincão, when he found himself facing a penalty after Ronald Araujo had taken a kick in the area. Miralem Pjanic was the man to take it, but Ramón guessed his intentions perfectly.
Half-time and it was still 0-0. Cornellà were proving very hard indeed to break down.
All credit has to go to the green-and-whites, who weren’t afraid to come forward and give it a go. But it was Barça who were getting all the real chances. Martin Braithwaite and Antoine Griezmann were both getting into the right positions but the goal just didn’t want to come.
Ramón does it again
And all the time the clock was ticking down and Cornellà looked to be getting more and more confident that they could be on the verge of something historical.
Barça were thrown another lifeline. Clement Lenglet very clearly received a boot in the face and it was time for another penalty, with Ousmane Dembélé the taker this time. Surely this time…. No! That man Ramon did it again.
Barça kept on piling the pressure. Braithwaite missed from an ideal position, Ramón produced a simply fantastic save against Pjanic, and in the dying seconds Lenglet’s header whisked frustratingly close to the post … And we headed for extra time.
Dembélé at last
Seconds after the ball was rolling again and Barça were finally in the lead! Dembélé opted to take a pop from just outside the area and there it was. At long, long last Ramón had finally been beaten!
The tiredness was really starting to show in the Cornellà ranks by this time, and it was one-way traffic for most of the half hour, although Barça didn’t well and truly finish the job off until the very last kick of the game, by which time a red card had reduced the home side to ten.
Pedri found he had the whole Cornellà half to himself, closed on Ramón and then side-passed for Braithwaite to make it 2-0, right on the final whistle.
Barça march on into the last sixteen, but Cornellà go out of the competition with their heads held very high indeed. They did Catalonia proud tonight and we wish them all the best for the rest of their season…
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