La Liga Review: Real Madrid 2, FC Barcelona 1. Life Is Pain, Highness.By: Ade C. | March 3rd, 2013
People tend to call me pessimistic. They say I’m never happy with the players’ performances, that I always complain about lineups, that no hair-style seems to please me completely. And yet, since last night, I’m apparently one of the few people on Earth who doesn’t seem to think that this team is doooooomed, it’s the end of an era, and the Camp Nou is going to be dismantled at the end of the season and sold for scrap.
Of course I’m not happy that we lost a Clásico. You can bet I’m upset at the team’s attitude yesterday. And I have been foaming at the mouth about Roura’s tactics for longer than a week. But I still don’t think that the end is nigh and everything has gone wrong and Barça are now destined to a spiral of decay that will end with the team in Segunda B, wondering what went wrong.
Still, it was a horrid match to watch.
Roura deployed VV, Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba, Busquets, Thiago, Iniesta, Villa, Messi and Pedro, which is a perfectly lovely starting XI; the fan-favourite MVP, Iniesta in midfield, no Cesc… surely, even after the midweek mishap, this should be enough to face a Real Madrid resting players for their midweek CL match: Diego López, Ramos, Pepe, Varane, Coentrão, Essien, Modrić, Kaká, Callejón, Morata and Benzema.
Whatever little optimism we had managed to scrounge up thanks to the starting XI died a painful death when Benzema scored in the first five minutes:
What can we say about our defence that hasn’t been said already? No wonder Valdés wants to leave, it must be exceedingly frustrating to keep conceding goals because your defenders have no concept of actually defending. A cross and a player running into the box, unmarked, to score: that’s the main reason Barça are on a streak of thirteen (13!) straight matches conceding at least one goal.
Conceding early was only part of the problem. The early kick-off time must also be nap-time at Can Barça, because the Barça players strolled under the sun with no sense of urgency, thinking about fluffy kittens and warm blankets instead of, I don’t know, remembering they were playing a Clásico. Iniesta was, at times, the only one who was giving it his all; Jordi Alba, Thiago, Dani and Piqué also showed an interest at times, but mostly Barça looked like a tired team going through the motions on the umpteenth (and least important) version of a match they’d played before.
Messi made an appearance to score the equaliser before searching for a sunny spot and lying down for a nap:
Lovely Dani Alves assist, too. And that was all the excitement in the first half, except for Barça giving away set-pieces they certainly didn’t know how to defend. The highlight of the match was the referee, who seemed as invisble as Pedrito.
The second half was even worse. Iniesta gave up on trying to be the only Barça player running around. The referee gave 5 yellow cards in less than 10 minutes. Mourinho brought in Cristiano Ronaldo, Khedira and Arbeloa. Roura replied by bringing in Alexis for Villa… which wasn’t a bad sub, and doesn’t that say it all? Valdés made a couple of excellent saves to keep Barça in the match. Roura shrugged and brought in Adriano for Pedro, because why use the one in-form, proper winger we do have on the bench instead of the fragile full-back out of position?
And then Ramos scored, because Barça and set-pieces are like James Bond and attractive females: we all know it’s going to end badly, but it’s a matter of pride to never stop trying.
Marking? What’s that?
Tello’s inclusion with five minutes to go couldn’t change anything. At least the goalpost was on our side for once, and stopped a Cristiano shot, leaving Valdés to deal with the rebound (and a couple of other chances) with the anger of a man who is standing alone in front of a firing squad while his teammates are discussing fuzzy slippers.
That might be why, when Adriano was denied a penalty in injury time (judge for yourselves), VV went a little beserk protesting to the ref, and was sent off in consequence. It’s likely he’ll be suspended for the next 2-4 Liga matches, which should give us a terrifying preview into what the future holds for Barça.
It was an awful match. Not so much for the result (away at the Bernabéu is one of those occasions when you can expect to drop points, regardless of the situation), but because of the team’s attitude: there was no urgency, no drive. The Barça who killed themselves trying not to let a ball out of bounds even when winning 1-5 was nowhere to be seen. Even the change in tactics that we’d been begging Roura for didn’t change anything.
Now, like I said at the beginning, I don’t think this is the end of anything. It’s a bad slump, yes, and one that comes with terrible timing, but I don’t think all is lost yet. Is Roura the man for the job? Obviously not. Not even a team as talented as this one can work without a brilliant coach guiding the way. Whose fault is that? No one’s. Tito didn’t choose to have a relapse in his cancer, or to have his treatment last longer than initially planned. The club chose to stick with him instead of bringing in a replacement, and we all applauded that decision when it was made. Now the team needs to deal with a less-than-ideal situation as best as they can, and try to keep their spirits up until things can return back to normal.
VV: 8. He had some incredible saves, and I understand his frustration at the end, although I do wish he hadn’t taken it out on the referee.
Dani Alves: 6,5. Great assist for Messi, but, ooh boy, young Álvaro Morata got the better of Dani during most of the match.
Piqué: 7. He had some excellent tackles and some good defensive moves, but why can’t he use his height and his head to defend set-pieces?
Mascherano: 5,5. Wobbly.
Jordi Alba: 7. Well, he certainly put in an effort. He ran, he tried… but he’s still a bit out of his depth in big matches.
Busquets: 6. He was well-marked and, thus, less influential than usual.
Thiago: 6. He tried, but it wasn’t his best match. And, please, someone teach the kid how to make fouls discreetly!
Iniesta: 7,5. During the first half, he was everything, trying to do everything. By the second, he was fed up and gave up, like the rest of the team already had.
Villa: 5. I’m being generous. Bad match by Villa, who wasn’t offside merely because half the time he didn’t bother to make the final run.
Messi: 5,5. One goal and that was it.
Pedrito: 4,5. Where was he? Did anyone see him?
Alexis actually did better than Villa, since he at least made the runs and took on the defenders, even if nothing came out of it. Adriano also tried, out of position and all. Tello didn’t have time for much.
Now, we have a week to stew in disappointment before we take on Deportivo, with one eye on the Milan ‘remuntada’. Chin up. This is still a marvelous team, with a generous lead at the top of La Liga, a bunch of unfairly talented players, and a chance at the Champions League. If we gave up on Barça every time they fail to win three matches in a row, we’d never have enjoyed things like the Triplete. Tito will be back, the players will shake off the funk, and we will win again.
Some Related Barcelona Posts:
- Copa del Rey Semifinals Review: Real Madrid 1, FC Barcelona 1. It Could Have Been Worse!
- El Clásico review: FC Barcelona 2, Real Madrid 2, Or, The Messi and Cristiano Show!