Barça will meet Getafe in the last 16 of this season’s Copa del Rey after completing an easy 7-1 aggregate win over Segunda División B side Cartagena. There was never ever doubt about which team would qualify after Barça won 1-4 in the first leg at Cartagena eleven days ago but tonight, in the last Camp Nou match of 2013, goals from Pedro, Cartagena’s Mariano Sanchez in his own goal and Neymar Jr will have helped a little to warm the 47,280 fans who braved the cold to see a meaningless second leg game.
Tata Martino treated the game with plenty of seriousness, fielding a starting XI of Pinto, Montoya, Puyol, Mascherano, Adriano, Fabregas, Song, Sergi Roberto, Pedro, Neymar and Tello. Cartagena set out playing a defensive 4-5-1 formation with the intention of avoiding a hiding. There were not too many spaces to attack early on though Neymar and Fabregas managed to send Tello in for a shot in the 4th minute which was blocked by Cartagena keeper Savu and then Sergi Roberto headed the rebound over.
Barça’s shooting throughout the game was generally pretty wayward. Adriano, Fabregas and Pedro all sent efforts from distance off target while free kicks from Neymar and Fabregas were both fired at the wall. It was clear that Barça would need to make progress on the wings but it wasn’t until the 21st minute that Pedro sent in a nice cross from the right but Neymar’s far post header went too close to Savu.
There had been little danger from Cartagena in attack but then out of the blue they hit Barça’s woodwork twice in a couple of minutes. First Zurdo cracked a left-footed free-kick from out on the right that flew past Pinto and bounced out off the far post. Soon after, Megias headed a cross against the other post but this time the Cartagena player was flagged offside.
The shock sparked Barça into action. A couple of minutes later Song opened play to Montoya who attacked relentlessly during the first half, and when the full-back sent in his cross Pedro won the position at the near post and cleverly turned his half-volley past Savu and in for the opening goal. Montoya and Pedro almost repeated the trick just before half-time after a sizzling run and pass from Neymar freed Montoya in the area but this time Astrain read the situation and just beat Pedro to the ball.
The second half saw Barça going through the motions with plenty of impressive-looking possession but not too much penetration into the Cartagena penalty area. The exceptions came with the goals with Neymar sending a pass inside the full-back for Tello to speed outside and then see his attempted cross clip off Mariano and beat Savu at his near post. Then right near the end substitute Iniesta danced one of his classical runs into the left of the area before flighting a delightful cross for Neymar to head home from five yards.
There was little else of note. Puyol, playing his first game at Camp Nou for nine months, put in a typical Puyol performance with one brave block to prevent Segura after Tello’s poor clearance but then he was also close to injuring team-mates Fabregas and Montoya with his all-out enthusiastic approach. Sergi Roberto put in another competent performance though if against Celtic he was praised for keeping things simple perhaps tonight he was guilty of playing it a little too safe. Neymar didn’t have his best night playing the false-nine role but he is a constant menace to the opposition defence and in the end his insistence paid off with a goal and an assist.
Barça will now play Getafe in the next round with the first game at Camp Nou on January 7/8/9 and the return at Getafe’s Coliseum Alfonso Peréz stadium the following week. However, first we must face Los Getafenses in La Liga this Sunday; with Atlético Madrid breathing down our necks at the top of the table we need to take another three points before the Christmas break.
Barça: Pinto 6; Montoya 7, Mascherano 6.5, Puyol 6.5 Adriano 6 (Alba m80, –); Sergi Roberto 6.5, Song 6, Fabregas 6 (Iniesta m76, 7); Pedro 7 (Alexis m76, 6.5), Neymar 7.5, Tello 6.
Cartagena: Savu; Cacho, Astrain, Mariano Sanchez, Zurdo; De Lerma, Carlos David; Eric Lopez (Fernando m60), Menudo (Antoñito m74), Segura (Fede m86); Megias.
Goals: m31 Pedro 1-0, m68 Mariano Sanchez (o.g) 2-0, m88 Neymar 3-0.
Yellow cards: m59 Puyol, m63 De Lerma, m84 Carlos David