Barcelona roller-coaster season continues with a home defeat to mediocre Real Betis. Madrid giants took the opportunity to close the gap.
12th match-day in LaLiga brought a major surprise with the Andaluzian green and white claiming all spoils at Nou Camp.
Home game against Betis had all the necessary ingredients for an easy, Barcelona-like goal difference boosting league match with a routine win.
Midweek point against Inter in Champions League that sealed the qualification to the next phase held the mood high. Messi’s return to action after the injury upped the atmosphere additionally. And the opponent had scored a solitary goal in previous 5 away games.
What can you expect in these circumstances? Total domination in a high scoring win.
In the end that’s exactly what happened however not to the hosts liking.
Right from the start it was clear that Barca can’t create as much as would have expected. Initial apparent supremacy was cut short by Betis goal.
After 20 minutes, in which both sides created some interesting situations in opposition’s box, Betis took the lead. And naturally in the most predictable way – counter attack.
Junior Firpo entered the box from the left and cut in onto his right foot. Sergi Roberto, not a natural defender, tried to confront him and deny shooting space, if it can be said so. However the Brazilian found enough time and space to release a shot that left no chance to Ter Stegen.
If he was cutting inside you’d expect one of the center back’s to be there to watch Sergi’s back. Well, you couldn’t be more wrong.
Admittedly, Barcelona’s right back didn’t cover himself with glory on the occasion anyway some kind of back-up should be there.
Firstly, because it has to. Following defensive basics, every player has to have somebody covering his back.
Secondly, the nearest Firpo’s teammate was some 20 to 25 meters away! And between them, beside Sergi, 4(!) other Barcelona players. Four! Chasing shadows. Taking a rest. Not sure what were they doing, but surely they were not defending.
Catalan pride was never known for their defending and fans are used to see similar scenes. Therefore probably weren’t too much concerned especially as soon after had a close range sitter saved by Pau Lopez in visitor’s goal. Our time is here, probably crossed their mind.
Barca team most likely believed the same as stubbornly refused to defend!
Not an accident
As if trailing by a goal wasn’t enough of a challenge for them, the hosts time and again allowed too much space for the opposition to thrive in. Subsequent warning shots weren’t taken seriously and Betis duly doubled their advantage.
This time they didn’t even bother to pose any kind of resistance! Joaquin was left undisturbed to slot into an empty net some 6-7 meters from goal.
If Lenglet and Jordi Alba at least pretended to mark somebody, Pique and Sergi Roberto didn’t bother even that much to at least fake it.
They did, however, learn the lesson from the first goal and watched each others back. Shame that the threat was coming from somewhere else…
After the break Barcelona went all out attack and eventually scored, courtesy of a gifted penalty by Betis defence, who until that point looked very tight and organized.
Game back on, you’d think! But since blaugrana apparently decided that won’t do any sort of defending in this game the goalkeeper shouldn’t be any exception. It was a rare mistake by the usually very dependable shot-stopper.
And to make things worst the goal came only a couple of minutes after Barcelona reduced the deficit. 71st minute, 1-3, but still a lot to come.
Till the last minute lack of the very minimum of concentration and attention on both sides helped to make it an entertaining, high-scoring and dramatic match.
Messi not enough
Messi scored two goals, had a few of trademark runs throughout the match and some decent shots but even he can’t make up for a collective black-out.
One of the stand-out members of the team and Catalonia in general, Pique, had a lapse of concentration that lasted for some 95 minutes. On several occasions was recalled from the manager but ultimately didn’t help.
Barcelona’s performances and particularly results this season oscillate from great, like the mauling of Real Madrid and Inter, to ridiculous, like defeats to Leganes and Betis.
Since it’s not an isolated incident it makes you wonder what to expect when the crucial part of the season arrives. What kind of Barcelona will we see against top European sides in international competition and in domestic season-defining trips to Madrid?
Betis will cherish the 3-4 victory in one of the most iconic stadiums in the world for a very long time. And rightfully so.
Real Madrid’s resurrection
Since Santi Solari took over the reins Real Madrid started to score goals and stopped conceding them. True, opposition faced in the last few weeks was far from world class but in September and October anyone could take the famous scalp.
This weekend’s trip to Vigo was pointed out as the trickiest fixture at the beginning of the short tenure.
But since Benzema remembered that he’s a top notch striker and found his shooting boots, Celta couldn’t prove too big of an obstacle.
Even if in the end the hosts had more possession and provided some attacking threat Real’s win was just and deserved.
Solari has been offered to guide the team further on, as expected, due to result tendency overturned and lack of quality alternatives. Hopefully he’ll make the best of it and build a reputation as a manager. But don’t expect any Zidane effect.
After the disastrous clasico defeat title challenge looked unrealistic. Both in terms of performances and point gap.
However, if Real continues to improve his game and Barcelona keeps blowing hot and cold we could be in for a very interesting season.
Especially with Sevilla and Atletico Madrid, both winning by minimal margin this weekend, not giving up.
And Deportivo Alaves and Espanyol still hanging in there. Surely not title contenders but potential party-breakers for somebody.
Surprises also elsewhere, beside in Barcelona, as Valencia, 4th Spanish team in the CL this season, won away to Getafe. Strange to hear, I agree, but it’s only second league victory for Los Che.
Somewhat expected visitor’s triumph in Valencia where Real Sociedad, best league record on the road, won against high-flying Levante. The Valencia outfit, nicknamed the frogs, have an indifferent home record but still sit in 8th place with just 3 point shy of Real Madrid.
Barcelona’s lack of defensive stability this season has been one of the talking points. If they don’t find a solution quickly Madrid giants and possibly also Sevilla will soon overtake the lead.