Iniesta strike gives Barça edge

Barcelona had to settle for a single-goal victory against third-tier club CD L'Hospitalet in the first leg of their Copa del Rey last-32 tie on Wednesday, with Andres Iniesta scoring the game's only goal.

The reigning European champions had to do without several first-team regulars due to international call-ups, but coach Pep Guardiola still sent out a strong starting line-up containing the likes of Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernandez, Cesc Fabregas, David Villa and Iniesta for the short trip to L'Hospitalet, from the Barcelona suburbs.

In front of a surprisingly sparse crowd, Barça monopolised possession, but their only goal came from Iniesta, who beat home goalkeeper Jose Moragon with a superb strike from just outside the area four minutes before the interval.

It was almost 2-0 moments later when a Puyol header from a corner struck Seydou Keita and then hit the post. Otherwise, Barcelona struggled to break down their hosts, who have won their last six league games, and will go to the Camp Nou for the return leg next month still in with a small chance of causing a huge upset.

This match was brought forward because Barcelona will be away at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan when the remaining first leg matches are played in early December. Real Madrid, who beat Barcelona in last season's final, will face another third-tier side, in Ponferradina.