Sandro Ramírez bagged his first professional hat-trick to help Barcelona cruise into the last 16 of the Copa del Rey thanks to a 5-1 victory over Villanovense at the Camp Nou on Wednesday, to progress by the same score on aggregate. Barcelona had been surprisingly frustrated by their third-tier opponents in the first leg back in October, but it took a much-changed lineup just four minutes to get off the mark in the return encounter
Dani Alves broke the deadlock to ease any anxiety for Luis Enrique’s side, before two of the club’s young prospects grabbed their chance to impress. Sandro scored twice before halftime, and one in the second half, while fellow 20-year-old Munir El Haddadi grabbed two goals of his own to ensure a comfortable night for the Copa del Rey holders.
The victory was Barcelona’s seventh successive in all competitions, and sees them become the first team to seal their place in the last 16, with the Catalans’ tie having being brought forward because of their involvement in the FIFA Club World Cup later this month. With a hectic schedule upcoming, the ability to heavily rotate his lineup and still come out with an emphatic win will have been extremely pleasing to Enrique. In all, Enrique made eight changes to the team that beat Real Sociedad 4-0 on Saturday. The phenomenally in-form forward trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez all earned a rest, with Neymar and Suarez remaining on the bench alongside Andres Iniesta, and Messi left out of the squad entirely.
As it turns out, Barcelona didn’t need them. Dani Alves took less than five minutes to get just his second Copa del Rey goal for Barcelona, striking a fierce drive from 30 yards that Villanovense goalkeeper Jose Fuentes failed to keep at bay, despite getting a despairing glove to it.
If Fuentes had been partly culpable for Barcelona’s opener, he bore an even greater burden responsibility when the hosts’ lead was doubled in the 21st minute. The goalkeeper gifted a pass straight to Sandro, who coolly curled the ball back past Fuentes and into the far corner of the net.
Villanovense were given some hope when Juanfran turned and beat Barcelona stand-in goalkeeper Jordi Masip from the edge of the box. But any optimism was short-lived. Less than two minutes later, Sandro grabbed his second when poking the ball home after being fed by striker Aitor Cantalapiedra, who was making his first start for the club.
Six minutes into the second half, Barcelona began to add sheen to the scoreline. First Jeremy Mathieu crossed for Munir to head home, and then, after Villanovense failed to clear a low cross, Sandro rifled the ball into the net with his left foot to complete his hat-trick. With 14 minutes remaining, Barcelona completed their latest rout as, fed by a delightful back-heel from Sandro that took out goalkeeper and defender, Munir doubled his tally for the game and the season.