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Barca's Copa Stutter

Barcelona made heavy weather of their Copa del Rey defence last night, drawing 2-2 at home to Malaga in the first leg of their quarterfinal tie.

The Blaugrana mauled Malaga 3-1 away in La Liga last weekend, but their changed line-up stuttered in the Copa.

Tito Vilanova’s side started well, but Malaga held on and poached the lead when Manuel Iturra robbed Thiago Alcantara of the ball just outside the box and slotted home past Pinto.

Barca reacted swiftly, and Lionel Messi drew them level just three minutes later.

Messi- who showed his four Ballons d’Or to the crowd before the game- latched onto a loose ball on the right, burst into the box, and fired a trademark curler into the back of the net.

Barca took a lead into the second half, when a minute after Messi’s goal, skipper Carles Puyol looped a header into Malaga’s goal.

So comfortable at home this season, Barca must have felt they had secured a first-leg advantage.

But they shipped a late equaliser when Ignacio Camacho was left unmarked in the 90th minute, to clip Malaga back into the tie.

After their sloppiest home display of the season, Barca will now have to lift their game to last weekend’s level for the second leg at La Rosaleda, if they hope to remain on course for a likely semi-final mega-clash with Real Madrid.

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