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Barcelona held to draw by Hercules in Copa del Rey

 

Barcelona laboured to a 1-1 draw at Segunda Division B side Hercules in the first leg of their Copa del Rey fourth-round tie.

With El Clasico on the horizon this weekend, manager Luis Enrique made the expected sweeping changes for the trip to Alicante.

However, the visitors found themselves behind early in the second half when David Mainz bundled the ball in at the far post.

Barcelona soon equalised through a long-range effort from midfielder Carles Alena, his first goal for the club, on 58 minutes, but could not manufacture a winner.

Enrique utilised his squad as Dutchman Jasper Cillessen started in goal, while Paco Alcacer led the attack as Samuel Umtiti and Aleix Vidal returned from their injury setbacks to start as Brazilian midfielder Rafinha captained the team for the first time.

Before kick-off, there was a minute’s silence in memory of the victims of the plane crash in Colombia which killed 71 people and most of the Chapecoense football team from Brazil.

Alcacer had yet to break his goal drought this season since moving from Valencia, and saw a chance in the 10th minute but his free-kick was saved by Hercules goalkeeper Ivan Buigues.

Despite giving away long spells of possession, the home side continued to frustrate their illustrious visitors, who were struggling to make an impact in the final third without their marauding front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.

Hercules threatened themselves just before the half-hour, but Jose Gaspar’s shot was straight at Cillessen before Rojas headed wide.

On 52 minutes, the home side took a shock lead.

Alvaro Salinas cut inside from the left and floated the ball through the Barcelona penalty area, where Mainz was on hand to bundle it past the keeper at the far post as the Jose Rico Perez stadium erupted.

The joy, though, proved shortlived as Barcelona equalised in the 58th minute.

Midfielder Alena was given space some 25 yards out, and his long-range shot flew into the bottom right corner just out of Buigues’ reach.

Buigues then made a smart save from left-back Lucas Digne as Barcelona grew in confidence.

Borja Lopez headed straight at the keeper from a free-kick before substitute Marc Cardona also forced Buigues into a smart reaction save, but the winner would not come.

Credit: PA Sport@ESPN

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