It was back to business for Xavi and Barca, with an away trip to the Basque region for a match against Deportivo Alavès on the docket.
Another win would go a long way for Barca’s confidence, especially with the new addition to the midfield, with Andreas Christensen starting as Barca’s DM. If things went well there, maybe some of Barca’s structural issues could be solved…for now at least.
But we wouldn’t know until the match started, so let’s hop into the action.
We witnessed some typical Barca shenanigans in the first half.
For the first 20 minutes or so, Barca actually found a way to put their stamp on the match. There were plenty instances of control from Barca, but their long instances of control had some form of importance as well.
There weren’t major spells of sideways passing, pointlessly holding onto possession just for the sake of it. Instead, there were calculated risks, along with some necessary amounts of urgency.
In the 20th minute, Barca’s hard work was rewarded, with Robert Lewandowski of all people scoring a type of goal he hasn’t scored much of this season.
Lewandowski provides an early spark
Lewandowski’s goal was a good one, but more so due to his individual actions that led to the goal.
First, his run into space allowed Ilkay Gundogan to roam into a more dangerous attacking area. Second, his first touch was sublime. He slightly nicked the ball into open space where he’d have more room to get off a shot. Third, his finish was excellent, lifting the ball over the keeper and into the back of the net.
In other words, a classic Lewandowski sequence.
The work couldn’t stop here though.
As we’ve seen far too often in the past, Barca’s lack of goal security has taken surefire wins away from them. So the next mission was clear, find a second goal and defend it like any normally functioning team with ambitions would.
And that’s what they did, as Gundogan scored a lovely goal to give Barca a 2-0 lead.
Pedri and Gundogan link up to score Barca’s second
There was some doubt regarding the eventual counterattacking build up at first though. At first glance, the assisting man in Pedri, drifted too wide and took too much time on the ball, therefore potentially killing the chance all-together.
But our doubt was quickly erased, as Pedri lofted a beautiful far post cross for the waiting Gundogan. But there was still work to do, as Gundogan was in a peculiar goal scoring situation. He looked too far from goal for an easy shot and he looked too wide from goal for a clear cut shot.
What happened next was a thing of beauty, as Gundogan fired a rocket above the keeper’s head with precision and just enough power. The ball went into the net, instantly giving Barca a double digit lead.
Twas simply a brilliant sequence by both Pedri and Gundogan. The pass and equally important, the finish. All of it was gorgeous, down to the last minute detail.
These are the moments of brilliance we were looking forward to when Gundogan arrived over the summer. They haven’t happened often because of positional differences and a lack of a true defensive midfielder, but today was an instance where Barca had a presence at DM, which allowed this move to occur.
After this goa, Barca immediately gave up a goal — classic modern Barca development sadly — which cut the lead to 2-1 at halftime.
But a lead is a lead, as long as Barca defended it, there wouldn’t be much of a problem. So onto the second half we went, with Barca trying to hold on and gain 3 points.
Would they do so?
The second half included more shenanigans, but Barca wasn’t at fault this time.
Vitor Roque rises, then falls
We’ll start later in the half, when Barca had a chance to secure their third goal of the match. Hector Fort — who came on at halftime for an ailing Joao Cancelo — strode down the left flank, looking for passing options.
He finally found one, as it was the newcomer Vitor Roque. Roque then just simply passed the ball into the back of the net, giving Barca a secure 3-1 lead.
All seemed well and for good reason.
Roque scored in his second straight match, Barca looked well on their way to another win, life seemed good…..until reality struck.
Roque’s red card
Roque was sent off just 9 minutes after his goal, after a second accumulated yellow card. His first card seemed a little iffy, but his second card was the one that made absolutely zero sense whatsoever.
The referee thought Roque showed his studs by way of a risky challenge. Anyone with eyes could tell that wasn’t the case, but just for safe measure, multiple replays were shown after the sending off.
And those replays showed that, of course, Roque didn’t do anything that warranted a second yellow card.
It was another blatant miscall by La Liga refereeing, a problem that’s gone on for far too long in Spain. Of course, anytime you complain, there’s risk of a suspension, so players and coaches are careful about discussing these sort of things.
But when the problem keeps rearing its ugly head, the discussions will have no choice but to pop up. This mistake was one of the worst ones I’ve ever seen in refereeing in a long time and I mean it.
I’ll take the writers cap off to get this off my chest.
This mistake isn’t even an amateur one, just one that shouldn’t exist in the first place. There’s no logical explanation as to why this decision was made, none, just none.
Of course, Barca went on to defend their 3-1 lead, securing the win they worked hard for. But it was driven into the background by the costly — and downright inexcusable — decision that will call Roque’s near future playing status into question.
Great win, but just an awful display of refereeing.
I’m happy about the win, but I can’t fully celebrate because Spanish refereeing has me seething while typing this out as we speak. We’re all sick and tired of this league constantly putting out a joke of a refereeing product, while the same league brushes the problem to the side for unknown reasons.
They’ve done nothing to address it, nothing to fix it, it’s just been radio silence.
There’s a reason why this league has declined in watchability. Yes, they’ve lost talent to other leagues, but the tragic state of refereeing has caused some to avoid the football entirely.
Honestly, there’s no solution for this problem, except for one that’ll make the RFEF and La Liga admit their mistakes. Which is something they’ll never do since those two organizations will let nothing erode their pride.
So until then, we can only complain and moan about this problem, until someone with common sense steps into these positions of power and fixes this problem once and for all.
Barca’s next match
Barca’s next match will be next Sunday against Granada.
See you all then!
I’ve been a big time Barca fan since I was 14 years old. I love the club, the history, and the tradition that the club has built over its prestigious history. Forca Barca!