Every week it is pretty much expected that when you watch a Barcelona match, it is probably going to be filled with not only beautiful soccer, but ending in a victory. This past Saturday, however, the story had a different ending as the defending champions drew at home 0-0 against Sevilla.
The Catalan giants had a lot of anticipation going into this clash against their rivals, Sevilla. The priority, of course, was making sure that those 3 crucial points were secured at home especially after their eternal white rivals, Real Madrid, had just annihilated Malaga 4-0 with a hat trick from Cristiano Ronaldo which sent them to the top of the table.
The points were not their only concern, but a lot of pride and history were also a part of the mix. That is because Gregorio Manzano made sure that their players shirts had a slogan printed on it reading, “Orgullosos de Andalucía” (“Proud of Andalucía”). Seems innocent at a glance, but Manzano has a history of disliking the cules and made sure these jerseys were especially made and worn for this clash of the giants. Having this on their jerseys was a way of letting the Catalans know that their Andalucía pride was going to be rubbed into their faces but in a negative light. Because of this, the stadium and the fans prepared to stand up for their team more than ever this season as more pressure was put on the home team.
Going into the game, growing concerns on the defense were evident as captain, Carles Puyol, and central defender, Gerard Pique, did not appear on the bench due to injuries. Recently signed Cesc Fabregas, on the other hand, was given the OK to play in yesterday’s clash but was not yet at his full fitness.
Opportunities were seen left and right for Barca but Sevilla goalkeeper Javi Varas denied the giants time and again. Many problems were seen throughout the game for the Barcelona side. Dani Alves seemed to have been off, as his crosses were not reaching the strikers almost at all which is rare for the Brazilian. Youngster Pedro Hernandez also seemed to be off his game, as it was seen in many instances that he struggled to control the ball almost at all and at one point even ended up kicking the ball out of bounce.
As for the defense, lack of organization and communication became obvious and put a goal in sight for Sevilla. This is because in the 12th minute defender Eric Abidal attempted to control a cross by Sevilla but failed to confidently give it to his teammate, Victor Valdes, who had to risk himself and scramble to get the ball away from Jesus Navas’ feet.
The defenders, however, were not the only ones struggling. The offense missed numerous opportunities. With 76% possession, the control of the game was in Barca’s hands but that seemed to have not been enough. In the 5th minute, a chipped pass by Lionel Messi barely missed an extended foot by Andres Iniesta. But perhaps the most talked about miss of the game came in the 90+ minute of the match for the Argentine. After a foul of Fazio on Iniesta inside the box, the referee pointed to where most offensive players want them to point at: the penalty spot. The penalty given was to be taken by none other than the best player in the world, Messi. Having had an incredible performance throughout the match, goalkeeper Varas was not about to stop with this penalty and denied Messi and the Catalans the glory at the Camp Nou. Varas correctly guessed the direction of Messi’s shot and dove to his left side stopping the ball in mid-air bringing silence amongst the fans at the Camp Nou. Like it has been seen before, big time players such as Messi have missed crucial penalties like this one. Luckily for Messi, however, the city of Barcelona backed him up by titling the cover of their newspaper Sport with a picture of Messi reading “Messi is human.” It is true, after tremendous performance after performance by the youngster it is only natural for him to slip up once in a while but it is also natural for a team like Barcelona with results like these to consider them as not a loss but a gain in learning what to do better next time.
As for Sevilla, not much possession was seen throughout the match for them with only 24% possession. Frustration also became clear during the last few minutes of the game as Kanoute received a second yellow for a strike against Fabregas’ face, which lead to a fight on the field followed by a straight red in the 96th minute to his teammate, Navarro. The MVP for the Andalucians, however, was goalkeeper Varas who gave an impressive performance by denying Barca from scoring at least 3 or 4 goals.
Post-game interviews speculated on overall performance and Messi’s spectacular slip up. Adriano mentioned that “[the team] did everything, we just did not see results.” Teammate Seydou Keita touched upon the same subject, “That is football.” And went on to defend Messi by saying that, “[he] gives a lot to the team, a lot. So, there is no need to worry.” Not only were speculations made, but accusations were made as well. The Mali star Kanoute had an incident with Fabregas on the field, which lead to Kanoute claiming that racist comments were said against him. In response to the accusation, Fabregas personally wrote on his Twitter account, “I can proudly say that after many years in football, I always maintained the best relationships with my teammates who came from different backgrounds, races, religions and nationalities. No one has ever accused me of being racist or bigoted in all my years of playing in the game.” Luckily for both Kanoute and Fabregas, they managed to settle the dispute on the phone and made peace the next day.
No one can say what will happen next for the Catalans, but hopefully they will be able to pick themselves up against Granada on Tuesday and be able to not only keep possession but also put one in the back of the net. Results are needed for them tomorrow in order to not only catch up to Real Madrid (2nd place) but also Levante who remain at the top of the table with 20 points.Back to the Soccer Newsfeed