Perhaps the early kick off and the warm sunshine contributed to the vast open spaces in the stands of the Estadio Jose Rico Perez.
The afternoon started in the worst possible fashion for Barça B. Kiko Femenia was injured in the pre match warm up, Eusebio drafting Sergio Araujo into the starting line up in his place. Would the feisty South American, restricted to mainly substitute appearances this season, make the most of the opportunity?
Barca bossed the early exchanges, Rafinha and Grimaldo in particular taking the game to their more experienced hosts. Its very easy to forget how young these players are, with continuing performances of such poise and maturity, Gerard Deulofeu was making a nuisance of himself but this was a quiet game for him. Each time the ball was worked wide to Barca’s danger man, he was quickly closed down before he could create anything of note.
The home sides first real chance came on 17 minutes but the ball was taken far too wide and the chance was gone.
Hercules were very poor offensively and were impotent as an attacking threat in the half. The same could be said of a very disappointing Araujo who was completely anonymous in this game. His strike partner, the impressive Luis Alberto, worked hard but chances were at a premium and the first half ended goalless.
Araujo was eventually and unsurprisingly replaced by Jean-Marie Dongou on 57, despite almost scoring with a snapshot just a couple of minutes beforehand. On this showing, one can sympathise with Eusebio’s decision to keep Araujo benched for the most part this season. It’s possibly the managers only sensible decision this term – cules are still scratching their heads at some of the positional changes and line ups from the manager.
Much of the game was played out in a congested midfield but as the second half progressed, Barça began to move through the gears. On 71 minutes Dongou used his strength in the box to hold off a challenge. The ball was worked to Alberto via Lobato and the player drew both the defender and keeper before switching the ball onto his right foot and making no mistake with the shot. Barça led 1-0 and the match was theirs to lose with nineteen left to play.
Espinosa replaced Grimaldo with a quarter of an hour to go, another ‘interesting’ decision by Sacristan, given that the youngster, along with Rafinha, were my players of the match. Former Barça youth player Fran Merida came close on 79, his low shot just wide of Oier’s left hand post but this was noticeably Hercules’ best effort of the second half.
With four minutes left to play, Rivas inexplicably left out his arm whilst sliding in the area, the needless handball giving Barça the perfect opportunity to kill the game off. Lomban strode up confidently and placed the ball perfectly beyond the keepers reach. 2-0, game over.
There was still time for a third goal and it was well worth the wait. A mazy cross field run and inch perfect pass by Rafinha found Espinosa in space. The substitute sent a beautiful curling effort high into the net and Barça led 3-0 in injury time.
Barca’s Patric Gabbaron still had time to get himself booked and the resulting free kick was the last effort of the game.
It was Barca’s 4th win in a row and the clean sheet will have given Eusebio a degree of confidence that the work on the training pitch is going some way to ensuring Barca’s early season defensive woes are gradually being eroded.
Final score: Hercules 0-3 Barçelona B
Barçelona B: Oier Olazabal, Ivan Balliu, David Lomban, Carles Planas, Alejandro Grimaldo (Javier Espinosa, min 76), llie Sanchez, Luis Alberto, Cristian Lobato, Gerard Deulofeu (Patricio Gabarron, min 61), Rafinha Alcantara, Sergio Araujo (Jean Marie Dongou, min 56)
Hercules: Falcón, Cabrera, Escassi, Sardinero, Fran Mérida, Portillo, Gilvan, Peña, D. Rivas, Mora, Arbilla.
0-1 Luis Alberto (min 71)
0-2 David Lomban (pen, min 86)
0-3 Javier Espinosa (min 90)
This review was written by our Barca B correspondent, Jason Pettigrove. Follow Jason on twitter @jasonpettigrove