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Barcelona escape Copa del Rey embarrassment

A calling card of Xavi's Barcelona is they don't like to make things easy for themselves. Such was the case against Intercity in their debut in the Copa de...

Ansu Fati celebrates after scoring his team’s fourth goal during the Copa del Rey match between Intercity and FC Barcelona at Estadio Jose Rico Perez on January 04, 2023 in Alicante, Spain. (Photo by Mateo Villalba/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

A calling card of Xavi’s Barcelona is they don’t like to make things easy for themselves. Such was the case against Intercity in their debut in the Copa del Rey.

The Catalans narrowly escaped an embarrassing elimination at the hands of Intercity and won 4-3 in extra time.

Ronald Araujo — back from injury — opened the score for Barcelona as he connected with a powerful header from a cross off a corner from Pablo Torre. Six minutes in, the majority would have believed the visitors were in for an easy time.

Barcelona had the majority of possession in the first half but, as usual, were unable to convert on the scant opportunities for a second.

Oriol Soldevila scored the first of his hat-trick early in the second half to tie the game. The jubilation from the home team was short lived as only seven minutes later, Ousmane Dembélé gave Barcelona the lead once again.

With the lead once again, it seemed like Barcelona managed to wrestle control away. However, Intercity had other things in mind.

In the 74th minute, Soldevila scored his second as he connected with a cross from the left, anticipating Jordi Alba in the process.

Barcelona responded quickly as three minutes later, Raphinha tapped in a vintage Alba cross.

With only four minutes left in regular time, Soldevila got his hat-trick as he took advantage of a brutal mistake from Marcos Alonso. Alonso’s touch let him down and Soldevila easily dispossessed him. The former La Masia player was left with acres of space on the counter as Alonso was essentially the last defender. He slipped the ball through the legs of Iñaki Peña to equalize and send the game into extra time.

At the start of the second half, no one would have imagined the game would be tied 3-3 and heading into extra time.

Fortunately for Barcelona, Ansu Fati saved them from hitting a new low and scored in the 103rd minute, slotting home a cutback pass from Raphinha.

Despite being down in extra time, Intercity managed to threaten a couple of times with Peña being forced to action on one occasion. In the end, however, Barcelona held on to the lead and advanced to the next round.

“We know what the Copa del Rey is like,” Xavi said. “The opponent are extra motivated to face us. We’ve made the game difficult for ourselves and we’re lacking effectiveness. In general, I’m satisfied.”

Players like Araujo, Pablo Torre, Raphinha and Fati can be satisfied with the way they played. Torre had the assist and played beyond his years. The other three ended up on the score sheet which is key to the confidence of Raphinha and Fati in particular. The rest, however, likely came across feeling they could, and should, have done better.

Barcelona now prepare to take on Atletico Madrid at the Metropolitano. It’s a match they need to win to remain level with Real Madrid in LaLiga. Xavi will not be able to count on Robert Lewandowski. Given the performance tonight from some of his potential replacements, Xavi is going to have his work cut out for him finding a suitable back-up.

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