Sunday night brought with it Spotify Camp Nou’s final game for at least the next year. The stadium was in all of its glory with 88,775 fans flocking in the stands as Catalonia bid goodbye to two bonafide legends of the club on the night.
Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba both started their final home game when Barcelona hosted Mallorca last night. Xavi Hernandez tinkered around with his lineup and put forth an attacking team looking for nothing less than a win.
Marc Andre Ter Stegen started in goal with Jules Kounde and Andreas Christensen guarding the central defence. Alba was deployed at left-back for his final home appearance while Alejandro Balde took control of the contralateral flank.
Gavi, Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong manned the midfield for the Catalans. In the final third, Robert Lewandowski was flanked by Ousmane Dembele and Ansu Fati to his right and left.
The game got off to a flyer as Fati netted the opening goal less than a minute after kickoff. The move transpired only through Lewandowski’s smart, yet delicate touch to find Gavi. The midfielder had a clear chance on goal but squared the ball to Fati who calmly slotted it in.
The night only went from bad to worse for the visitors. A horrific tackle by Amath Ndiaye on Alejandro Balde saw the Barcelona youngster writhe in pain on the grasses of Camp Nou. He was soon lifted off the field and the Mallorca forward had his yellow card turned into a red after VAR intervention.
At no point in the game did Barcelona appear to be breaking a sweat. The Catalans were dominant throughout the first half, not just in terms of possession but also in terms of the quality of chances created.
Fati made it 2-0 in Barcelona’s favour in the 24th minute of the game, once again with help from Lewy. The Polish international’s intricate understanding of positioning helped him manoeuvre the ball into Fati’s path and the youngster completed a well-worked finish.
The protege almost completed a first-half hat trick in the final minute of the half. Turning and unleashing a shot from far out, only a phenomenal save from Dominik Greif prevented Mallorca from going three goals down.
Heading into the tunnel at half-time, there was no shade of concern on the result on the faces of the players. Barcelona were clearly the dominant side and deservedly ahead.
The hosts’ second half began with another show on intent. Gavi’s corner kick fell kindly for Jules Kounde who hit the woodwork with his effort.
Five minutes later, Dembele had a glorious chance from Lewandowski’s cross. However, a goal-line clearance by Martin Valjent denied Barcelona a 3-0 lead. Lewy hit the crossbar six minutes after the hour mark with a well-struck free-kick just outside the area.
Golden Boy Gavi was the one who finally scored the elusive third goal of the night, flaring an already festive mood in the Camp Nou stands. Receiving the ball inside the box, he did not hesitate to pull the trigger. Gavi’s strike was clean as a whistle and flew past a helpless Greif.
Raphinha entered the field for brace-scoring hero Ansu Fati in the 78th minute. Seconds later, the stadium erupted in chants of Jordi Alba’s name as the left-back made his way to the sidelines in tears. He had come off the field of play for perhaps the last time in his career at Barcelona and was replaced by Marcos Alonso.
Ferran Torres came on for Ousmane Dembele five minutes later. This time around, the accompanying substitution saw Sergio Busquets bid adieu to the stadium of his dreams. There were no tears from the legend as he made his way off the field to a rousing ovation, not only from the stadium but also teammates and opponents.
As the full-time whistle blew, all cameras panned to Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba as they attempted to digest what the moment meant. The champions of Spain, for their part, could not have hoped for a better sendoff to the departing captains who might have played their final moments for the club.
The Spotify Camp Nou minimising into oblivion was the second big theme. As the lights went off, one knew it was the final time the stadium would host a game for at least another year.