A match summary / review of the Barcelona 1-0 Espanyol game.
Barcelona manages to get the three points against Espanyol at the Camp Nou. This means that Espanyol still has not managed to beat Barcelona since 2009. Barça’s city rivals are also relegated to the second division after tonight, thus the Derbi Barceloní (Barcelona derby) will not be on the screens next season. The hopes for FC Barcelona to win La Liga continue.
FC Barcelona started the game under control. In the first minutes of the game, the home team managed to dominate the possession. The whole Espanyol team got forced to get behind the ball, except for their striker Tomas. In the 10th minute, Ter Stegen made a crucial save to deny Adri Embarba’s shot towards the bottom left corner.
Overall, even though Barcelona dominated the first half of the derby, the team struggled in creating chances and could not score a goal. Despite their less possession, Espanyol has been the more- dangerous side in the first 15 minutes of the game, with 2 clear chances.
While the minutes passed, Barça seemed to be much sloppier tempo-wise compared to their 4-1 Villareal performance last week. With no real movement upfront, the attacking plays have been predictable. Lionel Messi’s free-kick attempt after a foul on Griezmann in the 21st minute of the game has been Barcelona’s best chance so far, while Espanyol hit the post in the 44th minute of the game together with 2 clear chances.
It seems that running the Villareal set-up tonight against a compact Espanyol side who defends with 10-men behind the ball brings back the old problem at Barcelona: creativity. It is important to add that this is the first time that Barça have not attempted any shots on target in a first half this season at home in all competitions (Opta) – and all this against a team who is sitting on the edge of relegation.
First-half score: Barcelona 0-0 Espanyol
Barcelona started the second half with Ansu Fati on the field who replaced Semedo. Sergi Roberto moved to the right-back, and Barcelona rotated to a 4-2-4/4-2-3-1 formation to show full attacking power. However, in the 49th minute of the game, Ansu Fati picked up a straight red-card which brought Barcelona down to 10 men. 4 minutes later, Espanyol player Pol Lazono also picked up a red card from a very similar tackle.
In the 56th minute, Luis Suarez broke the deadlock from a beautiful play by the MSG trident. Griezmann is played in down the left and back-heeled the ball in the path of Messi, who helped it in for Suarez. In the 69th minute of the game, fireworks have been heard in Barcelona, possibly celebrating Espanyol’s relegation.
Overall, Barcelone has increased the tempo in the second half of the game, which immediately showed its effect on the scoresheet. In the 77th minute, Espanyol almost equalized from a corner, but Gerard Piqué was alert enough to clear it. In the last 10 minutes of the game, Barcelona lost their initial control of the game, and this is not the first time happening this season. Ter Stegen made another crucial save in the 90th minute to deny an equalizer. In the last second of the game, Espanyol had another chance with a header that went inches above the crossbar.
After all, Barcelona grabs the 3 points in the Catalan derby and now has to wait for Real Madrid who plays against Deportivo Alavés on Friday.
Final score: Barcelona 1-0 Espanyol
Barcelona – Espanyol
%68 – Possession – %32
12 – Shots – 11
4 – Shots on target – 3
8 – Fouls – 12
0 – Yellow Cards – 1
1 – Red Cards – 1
3 – Offsides – 1
6 – Corners – 5
Stats via Google
FC Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Semedo (45′ Ansu Fati), Piqué, Lenglet, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic (90’+2 Araujo), Roberto; Messi, Suárez (82′ Braithwaite), Griezmann (71′ Vidal)
Goals: 56′ Luis Suarez (Assist: Griezmann)
Celta Vigo: D. Lopez; Vila, Calero (66′ Sergi Darder), Cabrera, Bernardo, Perea; Embarba (74′ Campuzano), Roca (86′ Wu Lei), Lopez, Lozano; R. de Tomas
That brings an end to the Barcelona vs Espanyol match summary.
3 lessons learned from Sevilla 0-2 Barcelona — Koeman’s changes win the game for Barça
Barcelona’s 2-0 victory over Sevilla might be Ronald Koeman’s biggest triumph as the Catalans’ coach. Of course, this by itself won’t win him anything just yet, but it could be the start of something big. With the new three points in the bag, the Azulgranas are now in second place, trailing behind the league leaders by only two points.
And it’s performances like the ones earlier this afternoon that can make us hopeful once again. Sevilla are an incredibly well-drilled team that’s also competing for the European spots in La Liga so taking them down with such dominance will surely both boost the morale and lay the groundwork for Barcelona’s future games.
But what exactly did we learn from today’s game?
1. Koeman’s changes paid off
It was quite bizarre of the coach not to change a single thing in the match that followed the disaster against Paris Saint-Germain. And naturally, when you do the same things over and over again but expect change, people will start doubting you. Luckily, however, Koeman has decided to innovate after all.
Today, we saw not only a change in the personnel but also in the system as well. The three in the back structure in attack and a 5-3-2 formation in defence with an aggressive press worked out beautifully. The team was highly effective at suffocating the opposition and not letting them play their game.
Sevilla were mostly pinned down in their own half and Julen Lopetegui’s troops had to rely on long balls to progress the play. Needless to say, despite having a clear target-man up top, that was never going to be a reliable strategy.
We are always quick to judge Koeman and his decisions so now, we have to give credit where it’s due and say his changes truly paid off. Whether this success was due to the tactics, the structure or the opposition’s lacking approach remains to be seen.
But this is a start and something to build upon. It’s important they don’t stop now.
2. Ousmane Dembele responds to his critics
Ousmane Dembele’s improvement has been palpable this season. The French winger has grown immensely and is finally turning into the player Barcelona need him to be: fast, lethal, decisive and most importantly, available week in, week out.
However, that hasn’t been the case throughout the whole campaign. Even though 2020/21 has seen him play a big number of games so far, and despite his dazzling displays, there was something missing in his performances. The spark was always there and that won’t change but we needed more.
Some of the clear chances he had missed haunted the team and while he isn’t the only one to be blamed for often being indecisive, that was his major weakness. But this Dembele is exactly what Barcelona had hoped for and more.
Ousmane Dembele has scored three goals vs Sevilla, more than vs any La Liga opponent in all competitions, involving in four out his last six games vs the Andalusian side.— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) February 27, 2021
— Opta pic.twitter.com/vlRehokOBZ
This Dembele is a nightmare to mark and also deadly when in on goal. Earlier today, Sevilla experienced it first hand and now it’s all about building on this performance and ensuring it’s not just a one-game thing.
If the young winger can regularly provide for the team, there may be a bright future for him at the Camp Nou yet. And maybe it has something to do with his new central role, which was also one of Koeman’s innovations on the day.
It will be interesting to see where this takes him next.
3. Hay Liga
We started this article with a positive and we’ll end it with one as well. After such a brilliant display and a victory against a strong opponent, maybe we are now allowed to hope once more. Of course, Atletico Madrid are just two points ahead of Barcelona at the moment but have also played two games fewer than the Catalans.
This means the path towards the title is still very difficult and long. But at the same time, if this team can start taking scalps off of bigger teams and finally stand their ground, there truly may be a league to fight for after all.
Still, let’s not jump the gun here. We are allowed to be optimistic and should always be, even in the face of certain defeat. But it’s also important to take things slowly and not get ahead of ourselves. There’s still a lot of football to be played and a lot of points to be taken.
This team has shown us that they have the strength and the ability to win games and do it with style. But it’s all about that consistency now.
Can Barcelona keep the ball rolling and keep this good feeling alive? We can only hope so.
And then, who knows. After all, one can dream, right?