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PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB.

FC Barcelona came back from behind for the sixth time this season to qualify in style for the next round of the Copa del Rey. Alavés opened the scoring through Borja after 15 minutes, and never left their heads drop at any point, just as they had done in the first leg. Adriano finally got Barcelona back on level terms shortly before the break, and in the second, two terrific goals from Villa, in his first full game since getting injured a year ago, tipped the balance nicely in Barça’s favour.

The defending champions go on to meet Cordoba in December, with the first leg being played on 12th December.

Alavés snatch lead

FC Barcelona started the game with seven homebred players on the field. Perhaps because of the ice-cold temperatures, or perhaps because so many changes had been made to the starting eleven (only Puyol returned from the side that beat Levante), the Catalans got off to a slow start. They were controlling the possession but failing to anything with it. They were struggling to get the ball out wide to Villa or Tello, and neither could they get it forward to Thiago, who had no option but to draw back into midfield to get any contact with the ball.

Alavés, without doing anything out of the extraordinary, defended stoically and managed to break the deadlock with their first and only shot on target in the whole of the first half, when Borja headed home from the near post, leaving Pinto with no hope.

Adriano and Thiago conjure up 1-1

Having gone a goal down, it was time for certain players with particular weight in the team to start taking command, especially Villa, Thiago and Adriano. The Asturian was making moves down the wings, Thiago brought out his magic wand and Adriano provided the physical strength and the shots on goal. His first was punched away by Sergio Herrera, but the second, following a delightful one-two with Thiago, found the net to make it 1-1 moments before the halftime whistle blew.

Incredible Villa

The second half belonged entirely to one man. David Villa. His was a stellar performance, and if Barça hadn’t already sealed qualification, it was he who put the issue out of the question. His free kick from the edge of the area made it 2-1 and five minutes later, an excellent through ball from Thiago to Tello started a beautiful move that was finished off expertly by the Asturian, taking his career total to 301. In between Villa’s two goals, Alavés had thought they’d equalised, but the linesman’s flag had gone up for offside.

Planas makes debut

Towards the end of the game, and with the tie more than settled, replacements were sent on for Dos Santos, Adriano and Puyol. Tito Vilanova opted to give Carles Planas his official debut, to offer Gerard Deulofeu his first Copa del Rey appearance, and also gave Cesc a late run-out. But by that time, the result was way beyond doubt. In December, FC Barcelona’s title defence continues against Cordoba.

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