La Liga Review: Granada 1, FC Barcelona 2 – A Good Omen, or a Bad Appetiser?By: Ade C. | February 17th, 2013
We’ve conquered the appetiser, which would normally be a good sign in views to the main course, except that if we have this much trouble with Granada, even Bojan on Wednesday might be too tough for us.
The good news is that Roura seems to have lost his fear of rotation and gave us an exciting starting XI: VV, Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Adriano, Busquets, Cesc, Thiago, Pedro, Messi, and Alexis; that’s even more risqué than what I suggested in the match preview in that we got to see a midfield without Xavi (injured) or Iniesta (rested) for the first time in ages.
Barça didn’t start the match particularly well. The left flank was vulnerable (Adriano and Mascherano far from their best), the midfield was wobbly enough that Messi had to drop deep to impersonate Xavi, and Alexis made sure that all Barça attacks came to an untimely a pitiful end. It’s been a while since VV has had to play goalkeeper, fullback and centreback all in one, but he did so yesterday, to counter Granada’s “come in through the left, cross to Nolito on the right” cunning plan.
Between Barça’s defensive frailties and the wasting of good chances by Alexis and Cesc, it wasn’t a surprise when Granada scored first: strolling down the left flank, excellent cross to Nolito, who set it up for Ighalo to tap in:
That’s what happens when you don’t defend and you can’t finish your chances. If this is what Granada can do, just imagine Milan. Barça have conceded in their last 9 matches, which wasn’t what we meant when we said we wished Barça’s defense were a little more consistent.
To compound on our misery, before half-time Adriano had to be subbed out “”"”as a precaution”"”" because of “”"”some discomfort”"”" on his right thigh. He’s been brilliant this season, but damn it, he’s made of glass, porcelain and our hopes for a clean-sheet; or else he’s fit and this was just an excuse to sub him out, it’s always hard to tell with our medical staff. Jordi Alba came in then, and things got a little better: the left flank got a little more solid, the midfield settled down, Barça sniffed around Granada’s goal a little more insistently.
Still, at half-time Granada had 25% possession and a goal, while Barça had 75% possession and Alexis.
I’m singling out Alexis because he was the biggest offender, but Messi also had one or two hideous misses, Pedro was virtually invisible, and Cesc was offside when he wasn’t lost. A crappy finishing isn’t just frustrating in the extreme, it’s bloody dangerous, because the Football Gods know Barça are incapable of keeping a clean sheet: if we concede often and are incapable of taking the chances we create, sooner or later a team is going to give us few enough chances that we won’t be able to score more goals than we let in.
And of course I’m not saying Alexis is a bad player. I’m not even saying he’s playing badly right now. I am saying, though, that if his confidence is so low that he can’t score to save the life of a baby koala, he should stop trying; stop wasting precious chances that the team can’t afford to lose, and start assisting, opening spaces for his teammates, and helping on the defence. Oh, and stop falling.
Things were better in the second half. I think that Roura took Messi aside and told him to stop babysitting the midfield and focus on scoring instead, because not five minutes had passed when…
Excellent shot by Cesc (do I detect a touch of “screw all this tiki-taka, I’m just going to man up and SHOOT!” there?), and Messi pounced on the rebound to score his 300th official goal for Barça.
Insert your own Sparta joke here.
Things were definitely looking up. Bringing Alba in had plugged the gap in our left flank, Cesc and Thiago were muddling along OK-ish in midfield, and Messi had a goal or two disallowed for offside. Then Roura brought Tello in for Alexis, and things got definitely exciting. Tello didn’t score, but he did shoot, even when it earned him a few loud words from Messi. Whatever. Tello has earned the right to shoot on goal instead of passing with his excellent shot-to-goal ratio. Shine on, you crazy diamond.
20 minutes left and Iniesta came in for Pedro, who had just taken a page out of Tello’s book and shot from outside the box, hitting the goalpost and seeing the ball bound all along the goalline before going out.
Iniesta’s presence magically inspired the team, and Messi finally hit a good free-kick:
Shame that journalists only had, like, twenty minutes to get all the Sparta jokes out of their systems.
So, one goal up, Messi on song, Iniesta in… how bad could the last fifteen minutes be? The answer is, of course, very bad. Barça allowed Granada to take the initiative, and it was a nightmare sequence of free-kicks, corner-kicks, throw-ins and hasty clearances; VV shone in the last minute, blocking a Brahimi shot that looked goal-bound, and Barça fans got a taste of the cardiac arrest that awaits us on Wednesday.
VV: 8,5. Did very well in both the spells of Granada danger we had. Not at faul for the goal.
Dani Alves: 8. Good defending, good crosses… but is it too much to ask that he doesn’t go skateboarding on his day off?
Piqué: 7,5. Our best defender, which unfortunately isn’t saying much.
Mascherano: 6. Far from his best match, and in combination with Adriano, nearly catastrophic.
Adriano: 5. Awful. Let’s just pretend he was injured from the start.
Jordi Alba: 8. Brought stability to the left flank and some good crosses.
Busquets: 7,5. Torn between bailing out the defence and helping Cesc and Thiago settle down; a little overwhelmed at times.
Cesc: 7. Good shot that led to Messi’s goal, and a few good attacks, but he wasn’t much help in midfield, where he was actually supposed to be playing.
Thiago: 7,5. Better than Cesc at midfielding, which is pretty much damning him with faint praise; he needs to work on his tackling, he’s too obvious and card-prone.
Alexis: 5. The less I say, the less I’m going to be sued for being mean.
Messi: 8. I appreciate the fact that he’s willing to drop deep and command the midfield when necessary, but he needs to understand that, with Alexis and Pedro being Alexis and Pedro, he’s more needed on top.
Pedro: 6,5. Pretty much invisible except for a shot that should have been a goal.
Tello did well, though he didn’t score within two minutes of being subbed on, and Iniesta too, though he couldn’t prevent the chaos at the end.
It’s a win, but not an encouraging sign before we meet
Bojan Milan. Still, let’s hope! We can be optimistic! There will be clean sheets, and Alexis goals, and a triumphant return by Bojan! Hahahahah. Oh dear Football Gods, it’s going to be awful, isn’t it?
Some Related Barcelona Posts:
- La Liga Preview: Granada v Barça, This Week’s Appetiser
- La Liga Review: FC Barcelona 3, Celta de Vigo 1… Ghostbusters!
- La Liga Review: Real Betis 1, FC Barcelona 2, Or, A Lively Sunday Evening… And Yes, A Record.