Lionel Messi gets the night off as Barcelona cruise towards Copa del Rey last 16
Gerard Deulofeu stars as Ernesto Valverde’s fringe players beat Real Murcia 3-0 in first leg of cup tie
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 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 have 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 have 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.