Thursday, 06 January 2022 10:54

Barcelona overcome Covid-19 crisis to advance to Copa del Rey last-16.

Staff Reporter.

Barcelona survived a Copa del Rey scare against third-tier Linares as Dani Alves marked his first Barca appearance in more than five years with a victory.

Barca made the trip to Andalucia missing several players due to COVID-19 and injuries, but coach Xavi Hernandez still decided to rest some key names for the last-32 tie and they fell behind in the 19th minute to a Hugo Diaz header.

Goals from Ousmane Dembele and Ferran Jutgla spared Barca the embarrassment of a third-round exit.

"I am very happy to help the team, to do what the coach asks me to do," Jutgla told reporters. "They came out very strong, perhaps a little stronger than us."

Having started with a second string line-up against a side 14th in the Primera Division Group 2, boss Xavi made changes at the break, introducing Dembele, Gerard Pique and Frenkie de Jong, to help turn the tie around.

They also had a goal disallowed by the referee for a narrow offside that could not be checked because Linares's small stadium could not support the installation of VAR.

The big news going into the game was Dani Alves's first appearance following his return to the club after six years.

The 38-year-old right back, who started the game as a winger, became the oldest player to feature for Barcelona in a competitive match, surpassing Jose Manuel Pinto by 54 days.

Barca joined Espanyol, Real Sociedad,Valencia, Real Betis,Rayo Vallecano,Mallorca and third-tier Atletico Baleares, who eliminated LaLiga side Celta Vigo with a 2-1 win, as the first clubs to advance into the last-16.

Meanwhile Real Madrid were made to work hard by minnows Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey last 32 for the second year in a row, but this time the Spanish giants won.

Militao's first-half header put the visitors ahead after they had come under sustained early pressure from the hosts. Forward Dani Vega levelled with a superb solo strike after half-time, before late goals from substitutes Asensio and Isco saw Madrid through to the next round.

Manager Carlo Ancelotti picked a strong team to face Alcoyano, who had caused an upset by knocking Madrid out of the cup at this stage last season.