La Liga Review: FC Barcelona 1, Valencia 0, Or, How To Be Happy With LessBy: Ade C. | September 3rd, 2012
Barça are now the only Liga team to have started this season with three wins out of three, and will spend the international break at the top of the table, at the lofty height of nine points.
The match against Valencia promised to be complicated, with them having taken a worthy 1-1 draw at the Bernabéu, and Barça still recovering from the mid-week disappointment, so Tito chose Valdés, Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Adriano, Song, Xavi, Cesc, Pedro, Alexis and Messi before trudging off to the stands to sit out the first of the two matches he’s suspended.
The biggest change was, of course, seeing our newest arrival in place of one of the team’s mainstays. Even though we suggested it in our preview, I didn’t really believe that Busi would get rested and Song left in his place, but I guess it makes sense, since Busquets has been playing all matches since what seems like forever, and he will likely play at both Spain matches during the international break.
Tito is obviously a braver soul when it comes to subs and rotations than we could ever be (and that Pep was).
The match started out energetic and open, if by ‘energetic’ and ‘open’ you mean ‘Valencia were getting all up on VV’s box and getting corners like candy at Halloween’. Our defence seemed to have trouble containing the likes of Soldado, not helped by the fact that Dani Alves was unusually subdued (suffering from some hamstring discomfort, as we’d find out later), and it took a good ten minutes until things settled down enough that Barça regained all the possession. Xavi was instrumental in this as was, surprisingly enough, Song; granted, our expectations of him were really low, but he did well, intercepting passes and surprising all those who had come to expect Barça’s DM to play dead for the ref at the slightest touch.
But it was Adriano who was the star of the first half. Fueled by the thought of all those fans grumbling ‘why not Alba?’ on Twitter, or by remorse for his faux-pas at the Bernabéu, Adriano was magic: he ran as if he were trying to beat Alves and Alba’s joint landspeed record; he defended like Masche; he crossed like Tello; and, finally, he shot like Yaya Touré after a Barça CK, sending a rocket into Diego Alves‘ goal.
1-0 after less than 30 minutes. You could call that a good start.
Unfortunately, that’s all it was. Barça had a handful of chances after that, but those that Diego Alves didn’t save, Cesc took care to mislay. We enjoyed plenty of possession, but very few shots on goal, and even fewer that entailed any danger (to Valencia’s goal, not to the poor people seated behind it, who must have been fearing for their lives all through the match).
At half-time, Dani Alves was subbed out for Jordi Alba, since the usual RB suspects (Montoya and Puyol) weren’t even on the bench. Although Dani had been cleared by the medical staff after missing the Supercopa return leg due to some unnamed problem discovered during the pre-match warm-up, he felt enough discomfort in his hamstring (not the Hamstring Curse!) that he asked for the change. Adriano was moved to the right wing, and business continued as usual.
Except that, the more time passed, the more Barça became complacent and the more Valencia pushed forwards… as much as a team defending with nine players can push forwards, which basically meant they took advantage of the many free-kicks and corner-kicks Barça let them have. There was a Valencia goal disallowed by the smallest of offsides, and many more chances to ensured that Barça fans will still be feeling palpitations 24 hours later.
Cesc missed another incredible chance (provided by an Alexis who seems to have finally joined the ‘keep to your feet’ movement) and was subbed out for Iniesta, but the closest Barça came to scoring again was Messi clinically smashing a free-kick into the knees of the Valencia players who made up the wall. Not even Busquets (who came in for Alexis, prompting Iniesta to move into the wing and Song to advance next to Xavi) could prevent the flood of set-pieces in Valencia’s favour that made the last few minutes an exercise in panic.
But luck was with Barça, and the 1-0 scoreline held until the end.
It wasn’t a bad match the way that Osasuna was. Barça looked whole, at least, and they moved forwards well enough, but they lacked bite; Messi was far from his best, and there are no words (that can be written on a nice blog like this) to describe Cesc’s luck in front of goal. Alexis was better than previously, but still failed to prove incisive enough to be a real danger. Still, as we’re reminded every time something like this happens, not all matches can be glorious manitas and we should be satisfied with the 3 points.
VV: 8. Did well, mostly in the ’shouting at his defence’ and ‘knocking people down while defending set-pieces’ departments.
Alves: 7,5. That he isn’t 100% fit explains why he wasn’t as involved as he usually is (or maybe he was intimidated by Adriano).
Piqué: 8. Those past months in which we quaked in our slippers every time the ball got close to Piqué seem like a bad dream now…
Masche: 8. Solid, reliable, always dancing on the edge of getting carded.
Adriano: 9. MotM. If this is how he reacts to getting sent off, we should bribe refs to get him sent off every other week.
Song: 8,5. He doesn’t have Busquet’s distribution, but he proved more than adequate at his defensive duties; looking forwards to see how he’ll play when he really gets integrated into the team.
Xavi: 9. Excellent match by our Midfield Magician. Barça works better when he’s on the pitch.
Cesc: 6,5. He was okay-ish on the midfield, and his distribution was fine, but the moment he faced the goal, the connection between his brain and his legs shortcircuited.
Pedro: 7. I forgot he was there for long stretches of time, as Adriano’s hyperactive presence made our Pedroadrunner redundant. But he had a couple of good chances.
Messi: 6,5. If we’re judging him by human standards, he was ‘meh’; if we’re judging him by Messi standards, he was downright bad.
Alexis: 7,5. Props for keeping on his feet more; hopefully Tito had a word with him about his embarrassing flopping about. Now, he needs to be more incisive on the attack and, for the love of all cupcakes, shoot on goal from time to time.
Alba (for Alves): 8. Fast as a squirrel on speed, I just wish he were a little less easily drawn into unnecessary fouls.
Iniesta (for Cesc): 7,5. Better than in previous matches, still not up to his usual level.
Busquets (for Alexis): I honestly don’t think he did much in the 5 minutes he was in.
So, it wasn’t awful. Tough opponent beaten, three points in the bag, healthy distance with Real Madrid mantained. And, since it was better than the match against Osasuna, we can hope we’re seeing the beginnings of an improvement.
Unfortunately, the dreaded international break is here. Almost 70% of the squad is leaving for distant countries to play with their national teams, and I’m afraid all this positive momentum will be lost by the time we return and have to face Getafe, but there’s nothing we can do, except pray to the Football Gods for no injuries and no jet-lag.
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Some Related Barcelona Posts:
- La Liga Review: FC Barcelona 5, Real Sociedad 1, Or, La Liga Is Back, Villa Is Back, MVP Is Back!
- La Liga Preview: Barça – Valencia, Or, Rotations Around The Messi Axis