x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

No goal feast but Guardiola content

The Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola was delighted with his side's 1-0 Copa del Rey victory over lowly Benidorm.

Lionel Messi drills Barcelona's winner against Benidorm
Lionel Messi drills Barcelona's winner against Benidorm

It may not have been the free-scoring Barcelona of recent months, but coach Pep Guardiola was delighted with his side's 1-0 Copa del Rey victory over lowly Benidorm. Barca were expected to hand out another thrashing against their Segunda Division B opponents, having scored 45 goals in their previous 13 competitive matches, 12 of which were won and the other drawn. However, Benidorm succeeded where so many Primera Liga and Champions League teams have failed this season and managed to nullify Barca's potent attack for almost all of the clash at the Nou Camp.

It was not until four minutes from time that a strong Barca side finally made the breakthrough, when Lionel Messi slotted home the rebound after his penalty had been saved to earn the Primera Liga leaders a 2-0 aggregate win and a place in the last 16. Despite the lack of goals, Guardiola gave his side the thumbs-up for their performance, saying: "That was one of the most important games we have played.

"I am more than happy with my team and I feel proud of the players." Guardiola, having spent last season in charge of Barcelona B, said he knew it would not be easy against Benidorm. "I know these leagues," he said on his club's website. "People do not know these teams and they underestimate them. "There are young coaches that prepare their players very well and they deserve complete respect." Atletico Madrid coach Javier Aguirre understands the frustration of supporters after they voiced their displeasure at their goalless draw against Segunda B side Orihuela at the Vicente Calderon. Atletico still progressed through to the last 16 courtesy of their 1-0 win from the first leg, but that did not appease the fans.

Aguirre, who left a number of his senior players out of the starting line-up, said: "Of course I understand that they are going away angry. They buy their tickets and want to see entertainment and goals. And they will continue to be angry if they see draws or poor matches." Villarreal suffered an early exit after failing to achieve the miracle they needed against Segunda B outfit Polideportivo Ejido.

Trailing 5-0 from their first-leg humiliation a fortnight ago, they were held 1-1 by Poli. Meanwhile, Real Madrid, who also suffered an early exit from the cup on Tuesday, have confirmed that striker Ruud van Nistelrooy will miss the rest of the season. * With agencies