Barcelona didn't need Lionel Messi to secure a successful start to its Copa del Rey defense Tuesday, beating third-tier Alaves 3-0 after goals by David Villa, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas. Andres Iniesta celebrated being named on the shortlist for the FIFA World Player of the Year award with a glorious goal for Barcelona as the holders won 3-0 at Alaves in a King's Cup last-32 first leg on Tuesday. The Spain playmaker, who struck the winning goal in the 2010 World Cup final, had limited space on the edge of the area when he curled a delicate shot into the top corner to double Barca's lead after 50 minutes. Alaves reached the final of the UEFA Cup in 2001 and now play their football in the third tier of Spanish football but battled hard against a Barca side who were without the rested Lionel Messi.
The 2001 Uefa Cup finalists who lost to Liverpool are now in Segunda B, the Spanish third tier. The Alaves keeper Urtzi Iturrioz was kept busy by an Alexis Sanchez header and a shot by Iniesta from the edge of the area before Villa fired Barca ahead on 40 minutes as he crashed a shot in off the crossbar after receiving a long ball from Iniesta. Alaves have a mountain to climb if they are to come back in next month's second leg at the Nou Camp, particularly after Cesc Fabregas headed a third for the unbeaten La Liga leaders at the end.
Villa opened the scoring in the 40th minute when he perfectly timed his run past Alaves' back four to powerfully latch onto a long pass by Iniesta and send it into the net via the crossbar. Villa, who missed the second half of last season and the European Championship after breaking his leg, said he's enjoying every minute being back on the pitch. "From hospital it was difficult to score goals," Villa said. "After all this time I want to play as much as possible, but I am in the hands of professionals and they know what's best for me." Coach Tito Vilanova had decided to rest Messi, forward Pedro Rodriguez, midfielder Xavi Hernandez and defender Jordi Alba for the game. With several other defenders out injured, Vilanova selected Martin Montoya, Javier Mascherano, Marc Bartra and Dani Alves for the back four.