A much-changed Barcelona made light work of third-tier Real Murcia to take a commanding 3-0 lead into the second leg of their Copa del Rey last 32 tie on Tuesday.
With the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta handed the night off, Paco Alcacer, Gerard Deulofeu and Jose Manuel Arnaiz, on his debut, took their chance to grab the goals for the holders.
“I’m happy because today we played with people from the B team and those that haven’t played as much and it was a good test for them,” Barca coach Ernesto Valverde told BeIN Sports Spain.
Barca has now won 12 and drawn one of their last 13 games in all competitions but took their time to break down their humble hosts.
Indeed, Murcia should have gone in front when Fernando Llorente blasted over from inside the area midway through the first half.
Alcacer headed home his first goal since netting in last season’s Cup final a minute before half-time from Deulofeu’s looping cross.
The former Everton winger scored his first Barca goal against Malaga at the weekend and quickly added a second with a fine individual run and finish seven minutes after the break.
Arnaiz was the only one of Barca’s youngsters who has shone for Barca B this season in the second division, a tier above Murcia, to be handed a debut by Valverde from the start.
And the 22-year-old showed why when he cut inside to fire into the far corner from outside the area four minutes later.
“He’s a confident player,” added Valverde.
“He’s good in one-on-one situations, has a good shot and for him to debut with the first team and score a goal is great for him and the team.”
With the second leg at the Camp Nou in just over a month’s time now a formality, Barca can concentrate on maintaining their four-point La Liga lead and securing a place in the last 16 of the Champions League before the Cup continues in January.
– Valencia in control –
Valencia, Barca’s closest challengers in La Liga, continued their fine form as Rodrigo and Dani Parejo, from the penalty spot, struck in the final nine minutes to secure a 2-0 first-leg lead at Real Zaragoza.
Sevilla shrugged off three straight defeats to cruise towards the last 16 with a 3-0 win at Cartagena.
Eduardo Berizzo’s men had shipped nine goals in being thrashed at Spartak Moscow and Valencia in the past week.
However, first-half goals from Pablo Sarabia and Joaquin Correa settled their nerves before Luis Muriel rounded off the scoring six minutes into the second period.
Malaga’s search for a win this season continues, however, as they conceded twice in stoppage time to lose 2-1 at second-division Numancia.
Recio’s free-kick had put the top-flight side, who have just one point from their first nine league games, in front.
Numancia didn’t level until the 93rd minute through Nacho Sanchez, but there was still time for Alberto Escassi to hand them a lead to defend at La Rosaleda in five weeks’ time.
Another late goal from Christian Santos handed Alaves a 1-0 win at Getafe.
And a double from Sergio Leon secured a 2-1 win for Real Betis away at Cadiz.