Confetti Rains at the Camp NouMay 16, 2011
FC Barcelona lifted the Primera División trophy on Sunday night after a stalemate at home to strugglers Deportivo de La Coruña. Although it was a match of few chances there was no dampening the celebrations at the Camp Nou as Xavi Hernández and Carles Puyol accepted Barcelona’s 21st league title.
Guardiola turned to his fringe players and Barça B stars tonight, affording the household names a well-deserved rest after a tough domestic campaign – and a night or two of heavy partying during the week. Starting in an unfamiliar side were youngsters like Jonathan dos Santos, Marc Bartra, Thiago and Fontàs.
The Champions League final is also now less than two weeks away – so while there’s a need to maintain the health of the squad, Barcelona will also be aware of the need to keep momentum with their biggest match of the season still to come.
Deportivo are also a team embroiled in a relegation scrap, and had no intention of surrendering three vital points. This was to be no exhibition match for Guardiola’s second-string team.
The starting lineup was unusual, but the style and formation were very familiar, with the home team controlling possession and interchanging with all the fluency you’d expect from a Barcelona XI.
Afellay in particular caught the eye, playing in Messi’s central role and embarking on a number of fleet-footed runs. Jeffren also showed glimpses of his considerable dribbling skill, shuffling past two Deportivo defenders only to poke his shot into the side netting.
But for all their attacking verve the final pass and finish were lacking in the first period.
At the other end Deportivo, known for their pragmatism in recent years, created one opportunity early on, as Víctor Valdés produced an acrobatic save to stop a Lassad effort after juts two minutes.
It was to be the Galician side’s best chance of the half, as they set about containing their opponents, with the centre-half Aythami deployed as a temporary defensive midfielder.
The second half also saw few opportunities at either end. Deportivo grew increasingly anxious as news of the evening’s scorelines filtered through. A defeat would take now their Primera División destiny out of their hands. Lotina’s response was to bolster his side’s defence, withdrawing Lassad for the rugged Gaurdado.
Meanwhile Pep Guardiola introduced Maxwell and Dani Alves to add some attacking impetus on the flanks. The change almost reaped immediate reward when Bojan came within inches of a drilled Alves cross after a darting run by the Brazilian. Bojan’s persistence forced another chance a few minutes later, as he scrambled through the Deportivo backline only to see his finish deflected wide.
Despite Barcelona’s dominance, the best chance of the match fell at the feet of Depor striker Xisco in injury time, but Víctor Valdés was equal to the effort and notched yet another clean sheet in an immaculate campaign.
Despite not scoring, Barcelona’s fringe players can take great pride in dominating a top-flight match against experienced opposition.