Barcelona leapt into the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey on Thursday night with a spell-binding display against AD Ceuta. The result marked their ninth win in ten games as they continued their upward run in form.
Raphinha opened the scoring for the visitors before Robert Lewandowski doubled their advantage minutes into the second period. Super-sub Ansu Fati then sent one into the net with a sizzling solo run. The game ended with Franck Kessie and Lewandowski scoring in a span of 13 minutes to register a 5-0 scoreline.
Barça Universal brings you three talking points from AD Ceuta vs FC Barcelona.
1. A game of two halves
The Copa del Rey is a special competition in that it gives an equal pedestal to teams irrespective of their division. Even the lowest-ranked sides pull off remarkable displays in the cup, and Thursday night was no different.
AD Ceuta languishes at the bottom of the Spanish third division. Despite being ranked lower than Barcelona’s B team, the hosts put pressure on the Catalans for a large part of the first half.
Ceuta recorded three shots in the opening 45 minutes, matching Xavi’s men, including one from inside the area. In fact, it was the lower-ranked team that had a clear chance to go ahead in the first half.
In the 30th minute, the hosts’ striker Rodri had a wonderful chance when he received a cross into the area. He timed his header to perfection and had the goal at his begging, however, it struck the side-netting.
Despite having an overwhelming 70% possession in the first period, the Catalans could not churn out any clear openings. Raphinha’s spectacular shot gave them a 1-0 lead, but the game was still even.
The second half, however, was a completely different story. Xavi’s men came out of the dressing room rejuvenated and dominated Ceuta despite their resilient defence. Four goals in 40 minutes broke the hosts’ spine and showed exactly why Barcelona are the rightful Supercup champions.
2. Kessie’s night to remember
Of all of Barcelona’s summer transfers, Franck Kessie’s struggle has been the most uphill. From being an undisputed starter at AC Milan to a bench player in Spain, his career has taken a downward spiral.
Xavi gave the midfielder a chance to prove his worth against Ceuta last night, and oh boy did he grab it by the scruff. The Ivorian was deployed in a very advanced position and acted almost like a forward with menacing runs into the box. In ninety minutes, he completed close to 80% of his attempted passes and created three chances.
It was the 26-year-old who found Raphinha for the Azulgranas’ opener. He then doubled his assist tally in the 50th minute with some phenomenal work. The former AC Milan player pounced on a loose pass by Ceuta and instantly found Lewandowski open on goal.
His day only got better as he got into the scoreboard himself in the closing minutes of the game. His menacing presence in the box paved way for him to get onto the end of Raphinha’s cross, and he calmly headed it beyond Tomas Mejias’ reach.
Such a display just goes to prove that his exclusion from Xavi’s dynamics is not for a lack of quality but an abundance of resources at the manager’s disposal. It now remains to be seen if the result brings about any change in his situation at the club.
3. Keeping up the steam
Barcelona’s primary concern in recent seasons has been their lack of consistency. The El Clasico win was arguably the team’s best performance of the season, but the question was whether or not they could manage to maintain their high level.
On Thursday night, the Catalans showed the world that the game in Riyadh was not a blue-moon phenomenon. By putting five goals past Ceuta, they reinstated their position as favourites in the tournament.
Despite being out of the UEFA Champions League, the Blaugrana are well-placed to complete a domestic clean sweep. They are in the driving seat in La Liga with a three-point lead over their arch-rivals Real Madrid. If they manage to convert their advantage in the league and cup, the season would speak highly of Xavi’s impact.