Barcelona avoid embarrassing Spanish Cup exit

Barcelona's French forward Ousmane Dembele (2nd-R) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the Spanish Copa del Rey (King's Cup) football match between Linares Deportivo and FC Barcelona at the Linarejos stadium in Linares, on January 5, 2022.

Holders Barcelona have fought back from a goal down to defeat third-tier side Linares Deportivo 2-1 in the Spanish Cup and progress to the round of 16.

La Liga leaders Real Madrid were also extended by their lower-league opposition as they overcame Alcoyano 3-1, avoiding a repeat of their exit to the third-tier side a year ago.

Barca made the trip to Andalucia missing several players due to COVID-19 and injuries, but coach Xavi Hernandez still decided to rest some key names for the tie and they fell behind in the 19th minute to a Hugo Diaz header.

Xavi brought on Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong, Spanish veteran Gerard Pique and Ousmane Dembele in the second half, with the French winger equalising with a low long shot that keeper Brimah Razak failed to stop.

A few minutes later, young academy striker Ferran Jutgla scored the winner with a cross-shot from the corner of the box after a counter attack.

Defender Eder Militao put Madrid ahead in front of 4,800 fans at El Collao Stadium only for hosts Alcoyano to draw level in the 66th minute when Dani Vega struck.

Substitute Marco Asensio restored Madrid's lead in the 76th with a defelcted effort before an own goal two minutes later extended the vistors' margin.

Other top-flight sides to advance were Espanyol, Real Sociedad, Valencia, Real Betis, Rayo Vallecano and Mallorca, however, third-tier Atletico Baleares eliminated La Liga side Celta Vigo 2-1.

The big news going into Barcelona's game was Dani Alves's first appearance since returning to the club -- for whokm he won 23 titles including three Champions League trophies during his first spell between 2008 and 2016.

The 38-year-old right back, who started the game as a winger, became on Wednesday the oldest player to feature for Barca in a competitive match -- surpassing Jose Manuel Pinto by 54 days.

"This is a very special day for me, to return to this team, and once again live these moments of the Copa. It was magical," Alves said.

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