A scorching drive from Andres Iniesta gave Barça a narrow first leg win on L’Hospitalet’s artificial pitch tonight. Barça had plenty of chances but poor finishing from our forwards let us down. L’Hospitalet gave us very few problems at the back thouigh Pinto had to be alert to make excellent save from Pedrazo with just ten minutes remaining which could have meant an embarrassing draw.
We took a while to settle in and during the first twenty minutes we were guilty of some poor distribution with Maxwell looking particularly unfortunate almost gifting a chance with a misdirected back pass in the fourth minute. We were not looking great going forward with only a shot from Villa in the 7th minute to speak of until Keita let fly with a screamer that brought an excellent tip-over save from L’Hospi keeper Moragon.
As the half went on we got more into our stride and the chances really started coming as Fabregas again in the false nine position began to come more into the game. Cristian Tello making his debut on the right wing was causing problems with his speed and in the 26th minute he played the ball inside to Cesc who controlled well before firing a low drive that Moragon had to dive low to save. Cesc had further chances but his finishing was not great on a couple of occasions while Villa also had a weak shot after a combination with Iniesta.
However, the goal had to come and just before half time it was Iniesta who provided it, starting with a run in from the left Andres played the wall pass off Fabregas before letting fly with a superb strike from dead centre 25 yards out which flew into the top corner away from Moragon’s desperate dive. A minute later we could have made it two when Puyol arrived at the far post to head a corner crashing back against the post.
The second half seemed to be one long act with the only objective being for David Villa to score. There may have been some sort of personal battle from the dressing room but the more he tried, and he certainly can’t be faulted for trying, the worse he got and you really had to feel sorry for him. The best chance of the half however was for Fabregas after Keita pulled the ball back instead of shooting, Keita’s decision may have surprised Cesc as he could do no more than stab the ball wide of the far post from 8 yards out. We got the cjhance to see Thiago’s little brother Rafa or Rafinha coming on for the last 15 minutes and when I say little I should point out I’m only referring to age. He didn’t have much chance to show what he can do though he looks like he is very strong with his back to goal. I think he’ll have a big future. With ten minutes remaining L’Hospi had one decent breakaway which led to a fierce shot from Pedraza but Pinto made a very good save. Villa might have saved his miserable evening with a late effort but despite a deflection Moragon reacted brilliantly to get down by the post.
Barça: Pinto 6; Dos Santos 7, Puyol 7, Fontás 5.5, Maxwell 5, Xavi 6, Keita 6, Iniesta 7 (Busquets m63, 6); Tello 6, Cesc 5.5 (Rafinha m76, 6), Villa 5.
Goal: m42 Iniesta 0-1.