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Match report

Atletico takes la liga title with draw at Nou Camp

May 19th, 2014

It all came down to the last match of the season. Few titles are decided in such a dramatic fashion, with the only two teams to remain in contention for the league title squaring up for the last match of the season and while a win for Barça would earn them the title, any other result was failure.

Atletico Madrid has been Barcelona’s main competition throughout the season and while Real Madrid showed some ambition for the title late on, their chances were dashed with a number of poor results. In fact both Barça and Atletico too suffered from the same thing and after a start to the season that was exceptional, both suffered points drops in the second half that really should not have occurred.

The visitors were unlucky to lose to men to injury early on, when first Diego Costa and then Arda Turan limped off the pitch within a few minutes of each other but despite high possession for the Catalans, the visitors held their nerve and made sure Barça had few options.

The opener was scored by Alexis 32 minutes in, with a goal set up by Cesc and Messi to be volleyed by Alexis into the Atletico net. The goal hardly seemed like it had happened and it took a moment for many Barça fans to believe their eyes.

Back on after the break with Barcelona ahead Atletico still looking sharp and quick to counter-attack. The equaliser came five minutes into the second half from a corner, when Godin headed the ball beyond the reach of Pinto, who looked to react a fraction too late. It looked like Barcelona had taken the lead again when Messi put the goal into the back of the net and for a moment the hopes of the crowd soared before it was clear that the goal had been ruled offside.

The final minutes saw both teams looking tense and as the minutes ticked down in extra time it could only take a miracle for Barcelona to win the match. When the final whistle blew it was over for another year for FC Barcelona as Atletico Madrid took the title.

1-0 Alexis (min 32)
1-1 Godín (min 50)

Barcelona beats Girona to face Espanyol in Copa de Catalunya final

May 14th, 2014

A Barcelona side comprised mainly of B and youth squad players beat Girona last night in the semi-final of the Copa de Catalunya.

The match saw Barcelona, playing away at Montilivi stadium, open the scoring thanks to Babunski , with Girona equalising to end the first half 1-1.

Cuenca put Barça ahead again 20 minutes into the second half, with Chando again equalising just two minutes later. But Ilie scored the winning goal for FC Barcelona to put them through to the final, to be played on 21st May against Espanyol.

0-1 Babunski (min 18)
1-1 Chando (min 34)
1-2 Cuenca (p) (min 65)
2-2 Chando (min 67)
2-3 Ilie (min 77)

Barcelona hang on to league hopes after draw against Elche

May 12th, 2014

Sunday evening saw FC Barcelona travel down to Valencia province to play Elche with kickoff coinciding with both Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, timed so that none of the contenders for the league title would have an advantage in knowing how the others had done.

Barça maintained high possession throughout the match, but once again were looking lacklustre and without the spark that you expect from the Catalans. While there were a number of opportunities to score, the team was unable to come up with enough to put the ball home and while in some respects they were unlucky not to score, they also lacked the creativity to make it happen.

Elche also looked dangerous at times on the counterattack, something that Barça needed to avoid at all costs in order to remain in the race. In the end the match ended without a goal being scored, Elche happy with their single point that guarantees they will play in the top tier next season, while Barcelona hanging on to their hopes only because Atletico also drew.

The title this year comes down to the final match of the season, with Barcelona facing Atletico. Barça must win the match to take the title, but on yesterday’s performance they have a long way to go if they are to achieve that aim.

Late goal from Getafe frustrates Barça

May 5th, 2014

Saturday afternoon saw a disappointing result for FC Barcelona after when a match that looked like it was in the bag resulted in a draw due to a last minute goal from Getafe. The first home match since the death of Tito Vilanova last month started off slowly, while the Getafe defence prevented anything happening when the Catalans did get things together.

Although Barça was denied from playing their normal flowing style, finally Alves and Messi got together for a decisive move. Messi started to move, passing to Alves who powered up the right hand side of the pitch, crossed to Messi who put the ball in the net. After 22 minutes the deadlock was broken and Barcelona ahead!

Barça’s lead lasted 14 minutes, until a free kick awarded against them resulted in the visitors equalising. And despite a good move by Alexis towards the end of the first half the break came with the two teams level.

The second half started with Barcelona looking in much better form that before the break and started creating problems for Getafe. Bringing on Cesc Fabregas in place of Mascherano 20 minutes in quickly yielded results, with Cesc starting a move that saw Alexis score Barcelona’s second goal of the afternoon.

However, time and time again as the minutes counted down Barça was unable to score again, despite being given space to do so. And then, well into injury time, just before the final whistle blew the visitors scored again to level with Barcelona.

1-0 Messi (min 22)
1-1 Lafita (min 36)
2-1 Alexis (min 68)
2-2 Lafita (min 93)

Barça stages comeback against Villarreal after going 2 goals down

April 28th, 2014

Sunday’s match was bound to be a tough one after the shock of Tito Vilanova’s death from cancer on Friday. The players knew him well, having worked with him since he was Pep Guardiola’s right hand man prior to taking over the top job himself, and as a product of the club’s youth programme himself, he was Barça through and through.

After a minute’s silence for their much respected former coach, FC Barcelona dominated from the start but despite high possession they were unable to break through to Villarreal defence. Messi looked like he might do something for the Catalans to no avail; and when the hosts got the chance they really went for it too.

However, just when the first half looked like it would end goalless a last minute counter attack from Villarreal resulted in them going into the break ahead.

Back on after the break things started unravelling further for Barça when the home side scored a second goal 10 minutes in and it started to look like their slender league hopes would be dashed completely. However, two own goals from Villarreal in the space of a quarter hour levelled the score, a huge piece of luck for Barcelona; the second was a fantastic header by Musacchio that he is unlikely to forget any time soon.

Now on an even keel it was down to Messi five minutes later to put Barça ahead and completely turned around the match from the disaster it had looked at one point.

1-0 Cani (min 45)
2-0 Manu Trigueros (min 54)
2-1 Gabriel (min 64)
2-2 Musacchio (min 77)
2-3 Messi (min 82)

Win against Athletic ends Barça losing streak

April 21st, 2014

Nothing much has seemed to go right for Barça of late, with FIFA’s transfer ban shortly preceding the club’s ejection from Champions League by Atletico Madrid and then the loss against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final last week. And then there are the league woes.

Athletic Bilbao are always a tough opponent and, standing fourth in the table, well up to strength this season. With Barça suffering three straight losses, Messi not performing lately and a number of players unavailable through injury last night’s match was always going to be tough. Messi did appear to have overcome at least some of his woes and appeared to have scored 18 minutes in. However, the ref ruled the goal offside and despite some chances the first half ended goalless.

It didn’t take long after the players came back on for the first goal of the match, when Aduriz scored for the Basque team four minutes in. The visitors looked to have scored a second soon after but, like Messi’s goal, it was ruled offside.

However, as Barcelona started to pile on the pressure things started to look better and finally, 25 minutes into the second half, Pedro scored the equaliser. Just two minutes later Messi blasted a free kick through the wall to put the Catalans ahead and seal three points.

0-1 Aduriz (min 49)
1-1 Pedro (min 71)
2-1 Messi (min 73)

Barça loses Copa del Rey to Madrid

April 17th, 2014

It’s been a tough fortnight. First FIFA bans Barça from transferring players for 14 months; their Champions League hopes are dashed by Atletico Madrid; losing against Granada makes the league title unlikely; and last night Real Madrid beat them to win the Copa del Rey, the only major trophy Barça had a realistic chance of winning.

Things went wrong early on, when Di María scored in the tenth minute. While Barcelona did bounce back and dominated possession, once again they were unable to break through Madrid’s defence. Leo Messi had a chance as the break approached but the first half ended with Madrid one goal ahead.

Back in after the break it looked for a moment that Madrid had scored again, only to have the goal disallowed. Finally Bartra levelled 20 minuted into the second half, putting the Catalans back into contention.

With stalemate on the pitch it was starting to look as if the match would go to extra time as the clock was ticking towards the end of the second half. But then, seven minutes from the end Bale put Real Madrid ahead again. In the final minutes Neymar came close to forcing the match to extra time but in the end the final whistle blew with Madrid taking the title.

While FC Barcelona were not at their best, it’s not the worst they’ve played recently either. However, Messi was noticeably absent from much of the action once again. The club needs to find out how to return him to form, but the club should also build a team that is so reliant on a single player.

Whether an on form Messi would have made a difference last night or any of the recent run of poor results is unknown. But with no chance of signing new players for more than a year, next season is looking like it might be lost already.

Di María (min 10)
Bartra (min 66)
Bale (min 83)

Granada delivers blow to Barça’s league hopes

April 14th, 2014

A complete disaster. There is no other way to describe Saturday’s result again Granada and what should pretty much have been a formality for Barça turned into a humiliation for the Catalans as the team completely failed to make an impact on the pitch.

Granada scored the opener at the quarter hour mark. Brahimi slipped through Barça’s defence in the host’s first attack of the match and suddenly Granada was a goal ahead. While not the best position to be in, normally a one goal deficit wouldn’t be match deciding. However, it turned out to be the only goal of the night and the Barcelona players left the pitch with their tails between their legs.

Once again Barcelona completely dominated possession, with the home side registering a measly 14% throughout the match, yet the visitors were unable to do anything with the ball. According to the stats Barcelona shot at the goal 29 times, but they lacked their normal spark.

It has been a tough 10 days, following first the decision by FIFA to ban the club from completing any transfers during the next 14 months and then being knocked out of Champions League by Atletico Madrid. But the result from this weekend looks like they’ve now blown any remaining chance to take home the league title too.

Gerardo Martino said that the team lacked killer instinct on Saturday. But the question is, where has it gone?

For the last few matches even Leo Messi is has been lacking the creativity and passion that makes him such a pleasure to watch. It may indicate things are amiss behind the scenes either with the coach, or with the club directors. But whatever it is things need to be resolved in order not avoid this kind of meltdown happening next season.

1-0 Brahimi (min 15)

Champions League exit by Barça as Atletico outplays Catalans

April 10th, 2014

FC Barcelona signalled their intentions clearly enough. Gerardo Martino said a few days ago that his team would try and score first, while Xavi had previously said that in his opinion the first goal would be key. And while Xavi turned out to be bang on the money, Barça had few chances early on as Atletico Madrid stormed the area and scored within minutes of kick off.

One goal up, the hosts didn’t let up. Wave after wave of attack on the Barça goal saw them lucky to only have conceded one goal, with Atletico striking the woodwork three times within the first 20 minutes. Barcelona was ragged, the players seemed barely awake and certainly in no position in at the start of teh match to stage any kind of counter attack.

After 20 minutes though the Catalans regained some composure and began to control the game more. As so often with Barça though, the players were finding it tough turning possession into real opportunities. While Messi had a good go at the goal, set up by Neymar, he shot wide and didn’t seem on form at any stage of the match. And while Cesc appeared to be brought down just inside the box a couple of minutes before the break, no penalty was given.

Back on after the break things looked quite different for Barça, who seemed to have a more focus. Dominating possession they attacked the Atletico goal, but time and time again the attacks ended without result.

In the closing stages of the match on came Diego for Atletico. He soon came close to scoring, only to be denied by Pinto. As the minutes ticked down the Atletico crowd roared but try as they might, Barcelona just didn’t have enough to make a last minute comeback and force the game into extra time.

In the end Barcelona retained 75% possession throughout the game. However, possession doesn’t always add up to victory, as is all to often demonstrated by the Catalans. And this time the result is the club being denied their seventh successive Champions League semi-final. No doubt the knives will be out for Gerardo Martino.

The result is disappointing, for sure, but personally I don’t know why he has become so vilified in the Spanish press. Despite what you may read, FC Barcelona is doing well this year, but there are some other good clubs right now. At the moment Atletico is the one to beat. In the league Barça is just a single point behind them and just two ahead of Real Madrid.

It is far from being a disastrous season, but it is a competitive one and that is good for the game. What we want, above all, is thrilling football, not a team that wins every competition it enters; that is not what sport is about.

1-0 Koke (min 4)

Barcelona beats Betis as members vote for new Nou Camp

April 7th, 2014

After Tuesday’s Champions League tie against Atletico Madrid, Barcelona’s draw this weekend looked relatively easy with Real Betis at the bottom of the league, having won just five matches all season.

The week has been overshadowed by the fourteen month transfer fan handed the club by FIFA for breaking rules on the signing of minors for its youth training program, which might have big repercussions given that Victor Valdes is set to leave the club at the end of the season, as is captain Carles Puyol. And Saturday was also the date on which the club membership was being asked to vote for the Camp Nou redevelopment plans.

Despite Barça going ahead quarter of an hour into the first half with a Messi goal from the penalty spot it was far from clear that the Catalans would win this match. As is usual with FC Barcelona, possession remained high, but try as they might they were unable to penetrate the Betis defense for a clear shot at the goal with the result that the first half ended 1-0.

Back on after the break Betis looked as if they might do something and, given that they almost certaonly face relegation at the end of the season, have little to lose. It looked as if it would just be a matter of time before the visitors scored.

However, during an attack on the Betis goal, defender Jordi Figueras kicked the ball into his own net instead of clearing it. It looked as if Barça would have scored anyway, but the players’ faces showed how it affected morale. Despite this Rubén Castro scored almost immediately after, closing the gap on Barcelona and again making the final rsult less clear. Victory was sealed within the last 10 minutes though when Messi scored his second of the evening from the spot after a handball in the area by Amaya.

1-0 Messi (min 14)
2-0 Jordi (own goal, min 65)
2-1 Rubén Castro (min 66)
3-1 Messi (min 84)

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