Third-tier Villanovense hold Barca to a draw

Madrid, October 29

Spanish third-tier minnows Villanovense enjoyed the most famous night of their history as they held an under-strength Barcelona 0-0 in the first leg of their Copa del Rey tie on Wednesday.

Villanovense play at the same level as Barca’s B team in the regional Second Division B, but they more than held their own in a game of very few chances and came closest to scoring just before half-time when Victor Calatrava’s flick flew inches over the bar.

The sides will meet again for the right to reach the last 16 at the Camp Nou on December 2. “I think we had the right attitude and I am satisfied with what I saw,” said Barca boss Luis Enrique. “I expected to win the game, that is what we came here to do. We had some chances, although they weren’t clear-cut. “The result is what it is and now we have the second leg still to play.”

Villanovense captain Angel Pazuelo had to fight back tears of pride as he hailed his side’s defiance against the European champions. “I don’t think you noticed the difference between the Primera and Segunda B. We gave everything,” he told.

Enrique made nine changes to the side that beat Eibar 3-1 at the weekend with Marc Bartra and Sandro Ramirez the only two players to keep their places. Indeed, five Barca players were making their first start of the season, including Cameroonian midfielder Wilfrid Kaptoum, who made his first-team debut.

And goalkeeper Jordi Masip said the result was more the fruit of brave Villanovense defending than a missed opportunity for Barca’s youngsters to make their case for more playing time. “I think we played well, but we have to congratulate Villanovense. They defended very well,” he said.

Roared on by a capacity crowd of under 4,000, the hosts started brightly and had the first attempt on goal when Pablo Angel Moraga fired just wide of the far post. Masip was also forced into the first save of the game when he collected Elias’s effort.

However, the visitors slowly began to take control of the game as Gerard Gumbau flashed a shot wide before Munir El Haddadi ought to have opened the scoring when he failed from close range.

Villanovense’s chance for glory came just before the break when Calatrava acrobatically flicked on a corner at the near post and the ball flew just over with Masip beaten.

Barca had the better chances after the break as Sandro’s piledriver went just over and another debutant, Aitor Cantalapiedra, had a strong penalty appeal turned down.

Villanovense had to rely on goalkeeper Jose Antonio Fuentes for the first time in the final 10 minutes as he made smart stops from Bartra and El Haddadi, but the hosts held out for a famous result.