Led by Jordi Roura in the absence of Tito Vilanova, who was in New York receiving more cancer treatment, Barcelona’s progress never looked in jeopardy despite resting several star names.
Fresh from picking up his fourth straight Ballon d’Or crown, Lionel Messi never left his position on the bench alongside Sergio Busquets. Xavi and Andres Iniesta were not even included in squad. It was the man with arguably the biggest desire to impress who did so most as David Villa scored twice in the first half to add to Thiago’s opener. Alexis Sanchez scored a brace after the break to round out the scoring.
It said much for the gulf between the sides that Barcelona’s B team currently sits ahead of Cordoba in the Segunda Division standings. One of the men promoted from Barca’s second string for the night, Sergi Roberto, made a good impression before going off injured after the break.
It was the young midfielder who set up an early chance for Cesc Fabregas that was blocked by visiting keeper Mikel Saizar.
Cordoba’s defenses would only hold out until the 17th minute. It was all too easy for Barcelona as Alex Song cushioned a volley into Thiago’s path and the midfielder was allowed to take the ball on into the box before calmly dispatching it into the net.
By that stage Cordoba were already looking in big trouble. Sanchez’s chip just failed to clear the fingertips of Saizar before Barca doubled their lead on the night with a memorable goal just four minutes after going in front.
Thiago played the ball to Villa toward the byline down the left and the 31-year-old showed he has plenty of his magic left as he tricked his way past a defender before executing an impish dink over the goalkeeper and into the net from the angle.
Villa, who the club have said is not available for transfer this month, continued to show why he could yet play an important part for Barcelona in the remainder of the season. Sanchez crossed the ball in and Sergi Roberto laid it precisely into Villa’s path to drive the ball perfectly into the bottom corner of the net in off the post.
It could well have been more before the interval as a shell shocked Cordoba looked there for the taking. Thiago struck a fine curled effort that from 20 yards out that cannoned off the corner of the woodwork before Sanchez slipped at the most inopportune time following Fabregas’ squared pass across the box.
Barcelona elected to rest two more of their experienced players at the break, as Fabregas and Carlos Puyol were replaced. But still Cordoba could do little to stem the waves of attacks.
Sanchez missed another chance to get a much needed goal as he burst onto Tello’s pass and took the ball around the stranded goalkeeper on the edge of the box but shot wide of the unguarded net.
Both he and the club will have doubtless been relieved that the forward was almost immediately able to redeem himself. From Thiago’s right-wing corner Sanchez rose above defender Juan Fuentes to head home from six yards for just his second goal of the season.
In truth the punishment could and probably should have been much more severe in the second period. Villa missed chance for hat-trick as astonishingly he side-footed over the bar from Sanchez’s pull back.
Sanchez himself was the biggest culprit, though. Despite his earlier strike, he still failed to look assured in front of goal as he rounded the goalkeeper for the second time in the contest but again failed to convert, this time slipping to the ground in embarrassing fashion.
But once again the former Udinese man immediately made amends. Half-time substitute Cristian Tello’s shot was blocked by Saizar and Sanchez was on hand and this time couldn’t miss to complete the rout from inside the six-yard box five minutes from time.
Barcelona will face Malaga in the last eight, while their one concern from this comfortable second leg will be the injury that forced Villa off late on.