Jose Arnaiz debuts with 8/10 rating as Barca ease to 3-0 win
Barcelona eased to a 3-0 win in the first leg of their Copa del Rey tie with Real Murcia on Tuesday, with Jose Arnaiz scoring on what turned out to be an impressive debut.
Paco Alcacer gave Barca the lead at the Nueva Condomina with a header on the stroke of half-time before Ernesto Valverde's side killed the game off after the break.
Gerard Deulofeu, who created the opener, added the second goal with a brilliant solo effort, and the lively Arnaiz scored the third from the edge of the area.
The biggest positive has to be the performance of Arnaiz. The Catalan press has been raving about his performances with the B team, and he took that form into his first-team debut. And while Arnaiz was doing damage on the left, for the fourth game in a row, Deulofeu showed glimpses of his talent on the right. Whether either will make it at Camp Nou is still up for debate, but Valverde certainly has something to work with.
Despite keeping a clean sheet, Barca were caught on the counter-attack more than once, with Jasper Cillessen and Javier Mascherano coming to the rescue. It also felt like a missed opportunity for some first-team players, notably Andre Gomes and Denis Suarez, although it's always difficult to play in what is, in reality, a completely new team.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Valverde got his team selection just right, with his mix of players in need of minutes, youngsters and experience.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jasper Cillessen, 7 -- The Dutchman was brilliant on the tour of the United States but has been left twiddling his thumbs since the season began, playing second fiddle to Marc-Andre ter Stegen. This was his first competitive start since last season's final, and he made one brilliant save in the final 10 minutes. Will be happy to have kept a clean sheet.
Nelson Semedo, 7 -- Runs at players like few others at the club, and there's always an air of excitement when he gets the ball. However, you can see why Valverde has been careful with his minutes, as you get the impression he's sometimes a bit too keen.
DF Javier Mascherano, 7 -- The Argentine was Barca's captain, and he produced a performance worthy of the armband. Treated this game like he would treat a Champions League final, flying in for challenges and making vital interceptions. Read the game well and looked to create from the back.
DF Thomas Vermaelen, 6 -- It had been 591 days since the Belgian last played for Barca in a competitive match, but he returned to the fold here. Completed the 90 minutes and looked good in possession. However, his role as Barca's fourth-choice centre-back isn't set to change anytime soon.
DF Lucas Digne, 7 -- A third straight start for the left-back, which has not happened often (if at all) in his Barca career. Did well in defence, and his crossing created a number of chances throughout the match.
MF Andre Gomes, 6 -- The deepest of three midfielders, the Portugal international had a platform to really make a statement in Murcia. Did OK ... but just OK. Gave the ball away too often and was outshone by others.
MF Denis Suarez, 6 -- Making his first appearance since Oct. 1, Denis played on the left of three midfielders. Was keen to make an impression, but it didn't quite happen for him. Missed a good chance to open the scoring and another one late.
MF Carles Alena, 6 -- Not an outstanding performance from the 19-year-old B-teamer, but it was a display which still strengthened the idea he has a future in the first team. Looks calm and confident on the ball, although will be disappointed he didn't have more of an impact in the final third.
FW Gerard Deulofeu, 8 -- Frustrated early on with his decision-making but got his act together eventually. Created the opening goal for Alcacer with a pinpoint cross. Then, after the break, he scored a brilliant individual effort, beating two players before sliding through Alejandro Santome's legs. Now has two goals for Barca, following his first-ever goal for the club at the weekend.
FW Paco Alcacer, 7 -- Took a while to come into the game but came alive in the box at the end of the first half. Had already had one header saved when he produced a good finish from a Deulofeu cross to open the scoring. Missed chances to score a second goal after the break.
FW Jose Arnaiz, 8 -- The summer signing from Real Valladolid has a debut goal for the first team to add to the four he's already scored for Barca B this season. Beyond his goal, a brilliant strike from the edge of the area, he offered a constant threat from the left and showed off some trickery in the second half.
MF Sergi Roberto, NR -- Came on for Deulofeu but had too little time on the pitch to do anything of note.
MF Ivan Rakitic, NR -- Given a late run out in place of Alena.
DF Marc Cucurella, NR -- Only brought on for seven minutes, but it was a memorable night for the teenage left-back who made his Barcelona debut.
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.