Barcelona’s defence of their Copa del Rey crown began inauspiciously as they were held to an embarrassing goalless draw against third-tier Villanovense at Estadio Romero Cuerda.
Luis Enrique’s men barely created an opportunity in the first of two legs on Wednesday, meaning their semi-professional opponents will perhaps head to Camp Nou on December 1 scenting the opportunity of a monumental upset in the round of 32 contest.
The match took place in an environment far removed from Barca’s iconic home, illustrated by Villanovense expanding their 3,000 capacity with extra chairs that were dotted around the running track surrounding the pitch.
Enrique predictably deployed an experimental XI, with most of his regular stars handed a much-needed rest against the minnows.
But the visitors were given a few scares in a hotly-contested opening half, Javi Sanchez hitting the crossbar just before the break.
Barcelona improved after the interval, yet rarely threatened Jose Fuentes’ goal as the hosts held on for a famous draw.
Perhaps inspired by the extra support on display, the hosts began in impressive fashion and almost opened the scoring when Angel Pajuelo skipped past a challenge and hit narrowly wide.
Barcelona predictably enjoyed a period of dominance thereafter, although clear-cut chances initially proved elusive.
Luis Enrique’s men should have taken the lead in the 32nd minute, only for Munir El Haddadi to miss a simple opportunity.
Marc Bartra’s effort from an Adriano Correia free-kick deflected into the path of the forward, who blazed over when seemingly destined to score.
Villanovense continued to unexpectedly hold their own, epitomised by Cubi nodding just over.
The dream of opening the scoring against the big guns almost came to fruition four minutes before half-time, Sanchez meeting Pingu’s corner to the front post with a back-heel volley that skimmed the woodwork.
Barcelona’s annoyance continued early in the second period, with their lack of cutting edge summed up by a Jeremy Mathieu 20-yard effort that missed the target by some distance.
Sandro Ramirez came a little closer, cutting inside from the left wing before sending a fizzing effort narrowly over.
Barca continued to control the ball, although their dominance of possession failed to yield real openings.
The visitors almost snatched a win they scarcely deserved in the 87th minute, with Fuentes producing a fine save to tip Bartra’s bullet header over.
Enrique and the Catalan club’s fans will expect better when the majority of the first team are recalled for the Liga match away to Getafe on Saturday.
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