Copa del Rey: Hercules hold make shift BarcelonaShare:
Luis Enrique's make shift Barcelona squad were forced to come from behind and secure a 1-1 draw at the Estadio José Rico stadium against Segunda divsion side Hercules in a Copa del Rey
A lackluster performance from Barcelona saw the La Liga Champions enter half-time deservedly stuck at stalemate with a lively Hercules who seven minutes after the break took the lead through David Mainz.
Carles Aleñà restored parity six minutes after the opnener as both sides held off pressure from each other to see out the game at 1-1,.
The result means Barcelona have now failed to win for the third time in four games ahead of the Clasico.
A predictably under-strength Barca featured three debutants in team B trio Borja Lopez, Carles Alena and Alex Carbonell, plus the exiled Aleix Vidal, but paperwork trouble ruled out Marlon.
For all of Barca’s recent struggles, however, their B team had beaten Hercules 3-1 in Segunda B at the start of the season and built a 10-point lead on the Valencians, who were a La Liga team just five years ago.
Still, Jose Gaspar proved the most dangerous man on the pitch, the midfielder first getting in behind down the right but lacking the composure to take on Jasper Cillessen, instead dragging a shot straight at the goalkeeper.
He then won the beating of his opponents in the Barca box, but like before, he hesitated to shoot and his effort eventually deflected off Samuel Umtiti.
Alcacer, meanwhile, ran onto Aleix Vidal’s long pass down the right, but his sliding cross-cum-shot is deflected away from goal by Buigues.
Despite his side looking so average, even at the best of times, Luis Enrique elected to stay in his dugout, preferring for his assistant Juan Carlos Unzue to take charge.
His disinterested demeanour seemed to feed into his players as a cross somehow fell to David Mainz at Cillessen’s back post, with Vidal failing to block the delivery and Lucas Digne unable to stop it from reaching the striker, who bundled it home.
Barca did respond six minutes later through La Masia graduate Carles Alena, the young debutant unleashing a rocket past Buigues and into his bottom-right corner, but they failed to push on from that.
Indeed, Enrique’s ‘keepy-uppy’ with his head and a free header from Andre Gomes that went straight at the Hercules goalkeeper was as good as it got for the Catalans, who similarly fired blanks against Villanovense at the same stage last season.
Hercules XI: Buigues; Pena, Rojas, Dalmau, Roman, Gaspar, Espinosa, Omgba, Ingles, Salinas, Mainz
Barcelona XI: Cillessen; Vidal, Borja, Umtiti, Digne; Denis, Alena, Rafinha; Carbonell, Alcacer, Arda
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