BarcelonaA moment of light in a match to forget. Like a flower that comes out after a fire. Ansu Fati’s goal in extra time prevented Barça from being the rioters of half the world after a second half in which Intercity, a First RFEF club, dreamed of eliminating Xavi Hernández’s men in the Cup (3 -4). Barça played with fire, but came away with it. He can only get better, this new year, after a game in which he went from dominating to an eyesore, especially in defense.
Xavi already knows that nothing is given to you in life, but surely he did not expect to have to bite his nails to eliminate in extra time a club that did not even exist when he was still playing. Despite a placid first half, Barça ended up suffering in a second half in which the Blaugrana defense opened up more than the waters of the Red Sea at Moisès’ pass. Barça was one step away from a defeat that would have been one of those that is carried like a loofah hanging on the back for years. And like a bad joke, the nails nailed to the Blaugrana cross were of Catalan manufacture, because the author of Intercity’s three goals was Barcelona’s Oriol Soldevila, trained at La Masia. Another La Masia boy, Ansu scored the saving goal. It’s hard to know who needs the young striker’s goals more, Barça or himself. The way the game went, it almost seems like the team needed more of them.
Intercity, a club founded the same year Ousmane Dembélé signed for Barça in 2017, punished Barça’s relaxation in the second half by pressing them up top and undermining their morale. Xavi, who always motivates his players with games, will have to send them to the corner, punished. He always stumbles over the same stone. When the team plays well, they don’t score enough goals. And when he defends poorly, he squeaks too much. Not even Pablo Torre’s good intentions in the midfield, for a start, served to see the light of day.
Araujo, a positive note
Barça returned to the Rico Pérez stadium in Alicante with the challenge of opening the year forgetting the disappointment of the derby. Strange, this modern football in which historic clubs like Hércules, which usually plays in this stadium, live below prefabricated inventions like Intercity. Everything was a little strange, in this first game of the year. Coached by Argentine Gustavo Sibiero, Intercity must have felt intimidated when they saw the team that Xavi Hernández brought out to play. A Barça that played patxoca, name by name. Without Lewandowski, now out of the team, the striker was formed by three starting players in the World Cup: Memphis, Dembélé and Ferran Torres. At the center of the defense, Kounde could finally play where he wants to play, as a centre-back, next to a Ronald Araujo who was finally returning to the field of play. And what a way to come back, because in five minutes he had already scored the first goal of the game by heading in a corner that made him take out all the anger accumulated after months of not being able to play. If in five minutes Barça already had a goal, everyone took it for granted that it would be blowing and blowing bottles. But throughout the first half, every Blaugrana attack ended up narrowly missing. And Ferran Torres didn’t have the day, as happens to him too often. The home side only created a dangerous move on a counter-attack by Aaron Pinan in which Araujo prevented them from scoring right on the goal line, because Iñaki Peña had not stopped the home striker. Araujo imposed his law in both areas, reminding everyone that he considers himself a starting position in defense. And he plans to fight every day so that Xavi also sees it that way. The Uruguayan is ready to provide the leadership that Piqué provided for years. There is no lack of character.
And it is true that Barça needs leaders. Xavi’s side had to pay for their sins in a second half in which Intercity, with little to lose, punished a weak defense, especially once a lackluster Araujo was replaced by Eric Garcia. Oriol Soldevila equalized in the 59th minute, taking advantage of a Barça defensive lapse. Xavi, who had already left his players without a New Year’s Eve party after the stumble with Espanyol, couldn’t believe it. The match, a pool of oil, turned into a small crossroad for Barça, who took the lead again thanks to a brilliant strike from Dembélé, but once again Soldevila drove Rico Pérez crazy by equalizing. More than one culer saw the ghost of a distant defeat in time at the Novelda field by 3-2 in the Cup, a town not far from Alicante. A good play by Jordi Alba allowed Raphinha to make it 2-3 a few minutes before the end of the match to keep away ghosts, when Xavi had already removed the team by bringing in the Brazilian, Gavi and Ansu Fati. Now yes, the match seemed decided. And in fact, Xavi brought in Marcos Alonso for Bellerín, to lock it down. But in the first ball he touched, Marcos Alonso lost it and again Soldevila took the game to a humiliating overtime.
The locals’ gas, however, was already running out. And Barça knew how to understand the extension by always keeping the ball away from the Blaugrana area. And with Jordi Alba very active, he won thanks to a shot by Ansu deflected by a defender. It wasn’t the most beautiful goal, nor was it a foul. It was a goal that served to ward off ghosts, although Xavi will surely not sleep. A goal to recover the cause of Ansu Fati, a special boy who has had a bad time. And a goal to prevent that in a few years the Blaugrana could still be teased by talking about Intercity.
- FC Intercity: Gaizka Campos, Jaime (Nsue, 62′), Murria, Pérez (Angong, 91′), Rafa Gálvez (Christian Herrera, 46′), Romero, Oriol Soldevila, Bellotti (Undabarrena, 82′), Pol Roige ( Koffi, 65′), Miguel Marí and Aaron Pinan (Xemi, 65′).
- FC Barcelona: Iñaki Peña, Bellerín (Marcos Alonso, 83′), Ronald Araujo (Eric Garcia, 60′), Koundé, Alba, Kessie, Sergio Busquets, Pablo Torre (Gavi, 60′), Dembélé, Memphis (Ansu Fati, 74′) and Ferran Torres (Raphinha, 60′).
- Goals: 0-1 Araujo (4′), 1-1 Soldevila (59′), 1-2 Dembélé (66′), 2-2 Soldevila (74′), 2-3 Raphinha (77′), 3-3 Soldevila (86′) and 3-4 Ansu Fati (103′)
- Referee: Valentín Pizarro Gómez (Madrid)
- Yellow cards: Pablo Torre (50′).
- Red cards: None
- Stadium: Rico Pérez de Alicante (14,500 spectators)