MADRID, Spain, November 10 – Barcelona had to settle for a single-goal victory against third-tier club CD L’Hospitalet in the first leg of their Spanish Cup last 32 tie on Wednesday, with Andres Iniesta scoring the game’s only goal.
The reigning European champions had to do without several first-team regulars due to international call-ups, but coach Pep Guardiola still sent out a strong starting line-up containing the likes of Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernandez, Cesc Fabregas, David Villa and Iniesta for the short trip to L’Hospitalet, from the Barcelona suburbs.
In front of a surprisingly sparse crowd, Barca monopolised possession, but their only goal came from Iniesta, who beat home goalkeeper Jose Moragon with a superb strike from just outside the area four minutes before the interval.
It was almost 2-0 moments later when a Puyol header from a corner struck Seydou Keita and then hit the post.
Otherwise, Barca struggled to break down their hosts, who have won their last six league games, and will go to the Camp Nou for the return leg next month still in with a small chance of causing a huge upset.
This match was brought forward because Barcelona will be away at the Club World Cup in Japan when the remaining first leg matches are played in early December.
Real Madrid, who beat Barcelona in last season’s final, will face another third-tier side, in Ponferradina.
Meanwhile, Highly-coveted Brazilian striker Neymar put a definitive end to speculation about his future here on Wednesday as he extended his contract with Santos for a further two years to 2014.
The 19-year-old had already said in September at a hastily-assembled press conference that he would not be moving in the transfer window in January dashing the hopes of several European clubs, primarily Spanish giants Real Madrid.
On Wednesday he went a step further in committing himself to the club up till the 2014 World Cup which Brazil is hosting.
“Neymar will continue with us till 2014, the contract is signed,” said club president Luis Alvaro Oliveira Ribeiro.
The player himself expressed his satisfaction that he would be staying with them.
“I am very happy, it is a decision I took with my family,” said Neymar, who became a father for the first time earlier this year.