Barcelona managed to finally break the curse that lasted for 6 games at Estadio de Balaídos. Koeman’s team managed to get a comfortable win, a very impressive victory considering the fact that Barça played the entire second half with 10-men.
The tenacious performance that broke the curse
by Adithya Eshwarla
The Balaidos curse breaks! After 5 long years without tasting victory, Barcelona dominated the Galician stadium in grand style. A gargantuan victory for Ronald Koeman and his team. Every piece in the system clicked phenomenally, and it looks to be the start of something good. A tough first half that saw Lenglet being questionably sent off still boasted of much-attacking play by the Catalans. Ansu Fati can just not stop scoring, Coutinho weaving his magic once again, a determined Jordi Alba, what more can cules ask for. But it was the fight in the second half that announced the return of Barcelona to the world. Despite being a man down, the team dominated the game in every aspect. Koeman’s practical and timely substitutions were a whiff of fresh air. All in all, a massive boost ahead of the game against Sevilla.
Player of the game: Phillipe Coutinho
He was the man to look out for ahead of this clash, and he did deliver in grand style. The Brazilian has well and truly been reborn under Koeman, with a defined role in the system. Coutinho linked the midfield with the attack, but that was not all. His magical feet acted as a constant source of creativity, providing the assist to Ansu once again. He was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet himself with his shot hitting the woodwork. An in-form Coutinho has so much to offer, one hopes he continues as he has started.
Gritty and Resilient
by Nassif Muhammed Ali
As a Barcelona fan, it is totally understandable if one approached the match last night with a lot of anxiety and trepidation. After all, Celta Vigo’s home stadium – the Estadio de Balaídos – has become something of a haunting ground as far as Barcelona is concerned. In their last six visits at this stadium to face the Galicians, they have not won a single match. They drew three and lost three, scoring nine goals and conceding a whopping fifteen in the process.
This wasn’t a comfortable win as the score line as well as many media outlets would tell you. However, it was a performance that the squad and its manager Ronald Koeman can be proud of. There were several periods in the game last night where Barca could have been vulnerable and slipped. The most important one being the second yellow card and sending off of centre-back Clément Lenglet at the end of the first half, when they were ahead by a single goal. But thanks to the consistent pressing, effective transitions and quick exchange of the ball, Barca doubled the lead early in the second half, before winding the game up during injury time.
Lenglet’s red-card was potentially more dangerous as Barca’s cover at the centre back is quite thin. However, young defender Ronald Araújo put in another promising performance and helped steady the ship. And speaking of youngsters, one has to mention Ansu Fati. Fati has scored crucial opening goals for the team now in the first two games of the season – both of which were against solid sides.
Stand-out performer: Philippe Coutinho
The Brazilian seems to be enjoying his second chance at Barcelona. The play-maker role that Koeman has assigned to him has brought him back to life. In addition to his contribution in ball circulation and the key pass that led to the first goal last night, Coutinho also had two fantastic shots on goal, only to be stopped by the woodwork and the goalkeeper respectively.
Beyond the direct impact that an in-form Coutinho has on the pitch, his creativity also relieves Lionel Messi from having to drop deep into the midfield. This helps Messi to stay close to the final third of the pitch and pose a more serious threat to the opponents. The tandem between these two geniuses will therefore be something to look forward to this season.
More, Ronald, more!
by Alexandre Patanian
Ronald Koeman was already a legend at Camp Nou for his impressive stint as a defender at Barça, but his managerial career at Barcelona might be as good as his time as a player. His team is playing so well and brushing off the competition like it’s nothing: First Villarreal, now Celta at Balaídos.
Beating Celta Vigo is always impressive, but shrugging off the curse? In that fashion too? What more could Culés ask from Koeman. The defence was rock-solid, the midfield well-balanced and the attack? Oh, the attack was explosive, brilliant or whatever adjective you want to use.
This was one of the most complete performances by a Barça side ever since the Enrique era or Valverde’s first season. It seems like the team finally learnt how to play with Messi rather than for Messi, and the future looks bright at Camp Nou. Sevilla, here we come!
Standout performance: Koeman’s boldness
Going down to ten men was never the ideal scenario at Balaídos. Celta’s new-found attacking prowess could’ve been more dangerous at times, and Barça came close to crack down under pressure on two or three occasions, which seems like nothing when you consider Barcelona’s relentless attacking intent.
Even with ten men, Koeman stayed bold and tried to attack, and it served him well. His subs were also spot-on as Pedro and Trincão are two great options to shrug off Celta’s tired defence. It was nice seeing a coach this attacking and positive sith his subs. Thank you, Ronald!
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.