Barça stumbled once again with Rayo, and they have already gone four consecutive times. The team led by Andoni Iraola beat the league leader in Vallecas in a match in which he controlled the midfield and in which he dealt two lethal blows at the start of the first and second half. The goals from Álvaro and Fran García left Robert Lewandowski’s goal in the final stretch to nothing and punished a Barça that has found its match in the field of Rayo.
Vallecas wanted to spoil Barcelona’s night once again and it was noticeable in the gala atmosphere that the two teams met. Populated stands, mosaic and a party according to the rival and the objective of certifying salvation. It was an atmosphere worthy of a final and Barça had to adapt to that, coming out with everything they had at their disposal, but overwhelmed by Rayista’s vertigo. Xavi put into play a 4-3-3 with the gala defense waiting for Christensen, still injured, with Frenkie de Jong instead of the suspended Busquets and with Ferran Torres as a great novelty at the spearhead along with Raphinha and Lewandowski . The Catalan coach’s plan was to be protagonists with the ball but not discard any long delivery in the face of the more than likely pressure in the opposite field designed by Iraola.
That scenario came true. Rayo made its reputation as a “heavy team” well, as Xavi cataloged it in the preview, and came out with the knife between his teeth. Thus came a notice from Isi Palazón as soon as it began, a scare with a one-on-one from Camel that disrupted Ter Stegen and the goal that brought down the culé wall after a transition that Álvaro García culminated with an unappealable left-footed shot to the post’s strain.
Dimitrievski, Balliu, Catena, Lejeune, Fran García, Unai López (Chavarría, min. 80), Óscar Valentín (Mumin, min. 89), Trejo (Pathé Ciss, min. 63), Isi, Álvaro García (Salvi Sánchez, min. 80) and Camel (Raúl de Tomás, min. 89).
Ter Stegen, Koundé, Araujo, Marcos Alonso (Jordi Alba, min. 57), Balde, De Jong (Eric García, min. 80), Pedri (Kessié, min. 68), Gavi, Raphinha, Lewandowski and Ferran Torres (Ansu Fati, minute 57).
1-0: min 19, Álvaro García. 2-0: min 53, Fran Garcia. 2-1: min 83, Lewandowski.
Gil Manzano (Extreme). He warned Balde, Jordi Alba, Gavi, Raphinha and Dimitrievski.
Match corresponding to the 31st day of the League, played at the Vallecas Stadium in front of 14,000 spectators.
Iraola’s men already knew the way forward after three games without knowing defeat against the Catalans and now, in addition, they had achieved the most difficult thing, knocking down a team that had only conceded nine goals in thirty games. That mission accomplished, the franjirrojos dedicated themselves to resisting the onslaught of the culés. They did it true to their style, without withdrawing and biting up whenever they could. This is how they reached the break with just one occasion in Lewandowski’s career that Dimitrievski stopped and a goal disallowed for the Pole for offside when the return to the locker room was approaching, little production for a thick Barça in circulation and that was forced to react immediately to avoid the fourth consecutive puncture against Rayo.
After the restart, the bad omens of Xavi’s men were fulfilled in a new outburst of Rayo. The franjirrojos returned from the locker room with the same advanced pressure with which they began the clash and in the blink of an eye they had once again exposed the best defense in Europe in a new error in the start from behind the culés. Fran García came out of his position to press Frenkie De Jong, caused the Dutchman’s failure and in just an instant he was up against Ter Stegen to beat him from below and detonate a Vallecas Stadium that was pinching itself before a new magical night of theirs. It was the just reward for a Rayo team that at no time was entrenched with the advantage on the scoreboard and that was in control of the match at all times thanks to the tireless work of Unai López, Óscar Valentín and Trejo, three players in overalls and baton in the medullary
By then Barça was already crazy. Xavi’s men had trouble getting rid of Rayo’s pressure, they couldn’t find a way to break lines and the most unbalanced players seemed caged. No sign of Lewandowski, Raphinha, or Ferran Torres. Given this scenario, Xavi made a move with the entry of Jordi Alba, Ansu Fati, Kessié, Pablo Torres and Eric García, a playoff of changes that suited his team well, but which came too late. Barça closed the gap in the final stretch with a goal from Lewandowski after a rebound in the area, but could not avoid stumbling for the fourth time in a row with the same stone.
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