La Merce celebrated with a home winSeptember 25, 2008
Yesterday was La Merce, celebrating the patron saint of Barcelona and all around Barcelona were celebrations for this week long street party. There was time for celebrating at the Nou Camp too, with a 3-2 victory that almost saw disaster snatched from the jaws of victory, and also the fact that the rain of the previous two days had held off.
Pep Guardiola had said that each time he wore a suit his team won, and from now on always will, but whether that is the reason for Barcelona’s improved play is in some doubt. Barcelona kept high possession as always and dominated Betis. However, they also seemed to be gelling as a team, something lacking in previous matches.
The star of the night is surely Samuel Eto’o, who just a few short weeks ago was unwanted in the Barcelona squad. In minute 16, a pass from Messi to Eto’o at the edge of the area saw it hit the crossbar and into the net; and just 6 minutes later Messi ran forward into the area with the ball and passed it to a waiting Eto’o right in the goal mouth making the score 2-0.
The problem was after being 2 goals up the team seemed to drop the pace and while they still attacked, it was without much conviction for much of the time and allowing Betis several chances.
The second half saw Barcelona act like they’d already won the match, with some really lethargic play, and Betis on the attack. In the 57th minute a corner created from Victor Valdes knocking the ball out against a long shot from Betis saw some scrappy defending from Barcelona resulting in an indirect free kick in the area for dangerous play. Valdes’s requests to his team mates to strengthen a defensive wall went unheeded and the ball went straight through, and into the goal – Valdes was furious that it could have been avoided. And then in the 66th minute Betis charged forward and Jose Mari Romero knocked the ball past Valdes and into the net.
With Bojan brought in in place of Eto’o the pace increased again, and it looked like Barcelona had the spirit to keep fighting, which sometimes disappears. However it was Gudjohnsen who saved the day with a shot from inside the area and the squad playing as a team once again. At the side of the pitch Eto’o went to celebrate Gudjohnsen’s goal with Guardiola; while clearly Eto’o has let bygones be bygone, Guardiola look like he was going to punch the Cameroon striker before embracing him.