Following a two week international break that saw Barcelona well represented by their players’ respective national teams, it was time to get back to business as Barça entertained Santa Teresa in the Estadi Johan Cruyff. The Catalans were third, two points behind former champions Atletico, though with two games in hand. Just before the break, they made a mockery out of Real Sociedad in a largely one-sided affair and today, against this newly promoted side, things were surely bound to get interesting.
The South Westerners come into this match on the back of a rather deplorable run of form. With just but a victory in their last five outings, and that too against the minnows of Espanyol, questions were raised on their survivability in the division. Then tenth, and with just ten points from a possible 24, and faced the gruelling task of taming the most dominant Barça side in recent history.
Crnogorćević · Melanie Serrano · Maria Léon
Bonmati · Guijarro · Hamraoui · Losada
Martens · Jenni · Caldentey
Boa · Sánchez · Slambrouck · Roviroja · Parallejo
Verdaguer · Nerea Pérez · Alba Zafra · Laaksonen
The defending champions were in the ascendancy almost immediately the first whistle was blown. Following a sumptuous cross from Aitana Bonmati, chief markswoman Jenni Hermoso scored a tap in from point-blank range.
In another chance just moments later, Lieke Martens, deputising for Caroline Graham Hansen in the right-wing, forced a save out of Raquel Poza. They failed to score the subsequent corner, however, what followed was, to put it lightly, a work of art. Such was the passing from the ladies in Claret and Blue that the opposition was left chasing their shadows. By the time they had the ball in their sights, it was at the feet of Ana Crnogorćević, who instinctively played a low cross into the penalty box for Lieke Martens to score via a tap in.
On a quick break having won the ball, Mariona Caldentey played a long ball into Martens on the edge of the box. She delicately controlled the ball with one foot and given how technically astute she is, she hammered the ball into the net with the other to seal hee brace. Three was four just a few moments later, and it was the Dutch number 22 once again. From the right flank, her attempted cross into the box for Aitana to head in had a sudden and wicked curve, and Poza, caught completely unawares, conceded her fourth of the game within just 20 minutes of the first going.
Lieke Martens’ genius was on display yet again. (Photo via Imago)
The team spirit was brimming, and this reflected in their possession, as the hosts held 89% of the ball in comparison to their visitors’ eleven. Four quickly turned into five in the 28th minute following another remarkable team goal culminating in Mariona setting up Jenni for her second and Barça’s fifth of the afternoon.
The Spaniard got her name on the scoresheet again with a stupendous strike on the edge of the box, over the goalkeeper and into the net to seal the game’s second hat trick. This goal marked not only Barça’s 30th goal of the season but also took the Pichichi winner to the top of Barça Femení’s all-time goalscoring charts.
She marked the occasion with yet another strike to seal a first-half poker. Following a cross from Melanie Serrano, Jenni had the simple task of tapping the ball into the back of the net to take the lead to SEVEN! Having already provided an assist, Mariona scored one of her own on the back of a cross from Aitana Bonmati, right through the keeper’s legs.
The visitors were disgruntled by the abject humiliation they found themselves in. Poza bowed her head in anguish as she had to pick the ball out of her net for the eighth time in the space of 45 minutes. So dominant were the Blaugrana that they ended the first half on 90% possession, with eleven shots on target from 14 shots, with not a single one on their end; not to mention the eight goals.
Half Time: Barcelona 8-0 Santa Teresa
With the game done and dusted, there was little need to search for more goals. Manager Lluis Cortes made straight swaps, bringing in Alexia Putellas, arguably Europe’s best midfielder, alongside Nigerian Striker Asisat Oshoala. Attack they wanted, and attack they did, however this time the goalkeeper was perfectly poised to halt their attacks.
Caldentey only scored one, but ran the show for Barcelona today. (Photo via Imago)
From Aitana to Jenni to prevent a ‘Manita’, Poza seemed like a completely new footballer in the second half. Even Vicky Losada’s thunderbolt on the half volley from the edge of the box hardly caused her any trouble. Frustration began to build up and in spite of having just the right keys to success, these symbolised by their patient build-ups from deep, they abandoned all tactics and resorted to taking shots from outside the box.
For the imprecision Barca showed, Santa Teresa nearly got their consolation goal, though, to their dismay, it was rightly rescinded due to an offside in the build-up.
The ninth did come, and it was substitute Andrea Falcón who set it up. From the left flank, she whipped a cross into the box and on the third time of asking, Oshoala finally hit the back of the net.
The win was enough to send Barca top of the table as even an Atlético win, they hold the head to head advantage as well as more than twice the goal difference. As for Santa Teresa, it is back to the drawing board as they face Granadilla Tenerife next weekend.
Full Time: Barcelona 9-0 Santa Teresa.
Three talking points from Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona
In the final edition of El Clásico in the 2020/21 domestic campaign, Barcelona incurred their fifth defeat of the league campaign. It was end-to-end stuff in the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium, as an exceptional first-half performance from the hosts was followed up by a tantalizing second from Barça.
This game had everything someone could ask for in a Clásico. There was controversy, passion, goals and for the first time in a few years, a red card was the cherry on the top. These are Barca Universal’s takeaways from the game in the capital.
Real Madrid’s efficiency on show
With four shots on target, 1.58 Expected Goals, and two goals to their name, Real Madrid put to show their sheer efficacy in front of goal, as well as in defence. For the first half at least, Zinédine Zidane’s men were always at the right place, at the right time making all the right movements and to devastating effect.
Los Blancos‘ philosophy is one of winning, and doing so regardless of how the victory is earned. Contrary to the Catalans, who not only need to win, but also do it a certain way, Los Merengues are more than capable of abandoning their usually proactive approach to games in favour of a more reactive one. The fact that they are not bound to a specific ideology makes winning matches one of the simplest of tasks.
They held the ball for only 32% of the game, which goes completely against what a majority would expect them to. At the end of the day, however, possession matters significantly less than what one does with it. With every lapse in concentration from the Garnet and Blue, Madrid had enough men forward, and well enough positioned, to hit them where it hurt.
Despite the relatively low xG, they had enough big chances to even lead 4-0 come the halftime whistle. When it came to defending, their tight-knit defence, in stark contrast to that of their rivals, barely broke a sweat. They imposed an impenetrable low block, and applied a collective press to force as many errors as they could.
In addition to this, Zidane has the luxury of having a starting eleven of devastatingly versatile footballers in his arsenal. Fede Valverde for instance was as much a right-back as he was a central midfielder and a winger. He executed each role to pristine perfection, and so did his peers to ensure all 3 points, and bragging rights stayed in Madrid.
Excellent mentality shift
Following such a harrowing performance in the first half, few, if any, could have expected Barcelona to mount a comeback. Had this been any other team, that would have been possible, but given Real Madrid’s first-half performance, this was all but envisageable.
Indeed, the Catalans did fail to get any points from the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium, however, the sheer mentality they showed in the second half was a sight for sore eyes. Ronald Koeman made the necessary adjustments to the side, reverting to the 4-3-3 and with it, they wrought trouble in the Madrid backline.
Lionel Messi celebrating the goal. pic.twitter.com/ZX1HzWSqAR— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) April 10, 2021
If in the first half Barça seemed caged in endless cycles of worthless possession, then in the second they made thorough use of it. The Blaugrana created eleven chances for themselves in the second period, and while doing this, they in turn limited Los Blancos to just a single shot on goal for the entirety of the half; a complete turnover from their performance in the opening 45 minutes.
It was nail-biting stuff up until the final second of the game, as Ilaix Moriba’s volleyed effort struck the underside of the crossbar. Given the overall performance from both sides, a draw would have been a considerably fairer result, but even in defeat with this version of Barça, the players and fans know that they can keep their heads held high.
A game of fine margins
Games of the magnitude of El Clásico will forever be decided by the most minute of details and the same was the case here.
The first significant one was the frame of the goal. In the first half, following the umpteenth counter attack from Real Madrid, Fede Valverde, who up until then was having yet another phenomenal showing against Barcelona, struck the frame of the post with a shot that crucially bounced underneath Sergio Busquets.
In the second half, Ronald Araújo nearly scored an own goal, but with Ter Stegen rooted to the spot, the ball rolled delicately onto the post and out for a corner. In the final minute of the match, and with Madrid fighting for their lives, Ilaix Moriba struck the underside of the crossbar to end this sensational tie on an emotional high.
Jordi Alba has often been criticized for being just as much a blessing offensively as he is a curse defensively. In the build-up to the hosts’ opener, he had one task to fulfill: mark his opposing fullback. This is one he absolutely failed, as he drifted too far inside, and by the time he had noticed his error, Lucas Vázquez already had Karim Benzema in his sights. Too little, too late.
The final significant detail was in the goal that won Los Blancos the game. After what many consider a poorly given free-kick from the referee’s standpoint, Toni Kroos surely could not believe his eyes when he saw the sheer state of Barça’s wall. Marc André Ter Stegen’s poor leadership of his defenders left him utterly vulnerable, and his German counterpart spared him no blushes, slotting it home to seal the victory for his side.