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Ernesto Valverde had warned that Cultural Leonesa would be giving it 200%, and that proved to be the case. Barça, with several of the biggest names being rested, struggled to get to grips with the intensity of the Division 2B side in Wednesday’s Copa del Rey round of 32 first leg.
The deadlock wasn’t broken until the very last minute, when substitute Clement Lenglet came to the rescue with a headED goal that sets things up very nicely for the second leg at Camp Nou in five weeks’ time.
After getting their first taste of first team football on the US Tour, defensive trio Juan Miranda, Jorge Cuenca and Juan Brandáriz (better known as Chumi) were all handed official debuts at the Reino de León, while Valverde also offered the first playing time of the season to Jasper Cillessen in goal and Denis Suárez and Sergi Samper in the middle.
For Samper, however, the evening came to a sad, early end as he hobbled off clutching his calf and was replaced by Carles Aleña.
There was little to entertain the lively home fans in the first 45 minutes, but they did get to their side produce what was officially classed as the only shot of the whole half.
The restart brought something of a change of tempo, although Barça were still unable to turn their silky superiority into real danger, while Cillessen was drawn into spectacular acrobatics to keep the ball out at the other end.
Keen to get an away goal to keep things safe for the return in the Catalan capital, Barça produced late surge in a final attempt to break down the tightly organised Leonesa defence.
Munir could have had it. His strike off a brilliant headed assist from Aleña went narrowly wide.
But just when it looked like this one was going to end goalless, Ousmane Dembélé dipped a perfectly judged free kick into the Cultural area, and there was substitute Lenglet to nod home his first goal for the club.
It was not a game that will go down as a classic, but Barça got the job done and are now well on course for a place in the last sixteen.
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