To call the first half unlucky would be more or less apt; starting without Lionel Messi was never going to be easy, but the team did well to control the tempo of the game and maintain pressure on Real Betis throughout the 90 minutes.
The credit for a that goes to Frenkie de Jong, who was constantly at the helm of things, winning back possession in the middle of the park before launching counter attacks through quick, intricate passes. In fact, he managed to involve the usually below-par Sergio Busquets in the game as well, covering from him in the defence while the Spaniard looked for through balls.
Special shoutout to Antoine Griezmann, who showed that he could take over responsibilities from Messi when needed. Yes, he missed chances. Yes, he failed to convert a penalty. But, he showed intent, did not stop making runs into the box, nor did he stop making lethal passes.
Furthermore, he showed that he is more than capable of carrying the ball, and if push comes to shove, he can shoot from distance as well, coming oh-so-close to scoring—just one of those days for him.
With Ansu Fati out for a while, now, Culés will hope that the Frenchman is able to shoulder some of the duties from Leo, and gains some confidence which will be crucial as the fixtures continue to get tighter.
Overall, as a team though, the first half was convincing, but the second was several steps above, courtesy to the introduction of none other than Messi. It is true that the team performed in his absence, but were missing that spark.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner brought the team together, set up Griezmann’s goal – in a way – and then went on to score two more. One of them from open play, no less, ripping the roof the net.
In a game where the team scored five, with goals coming from four different attackers, it would be unfair to single out anyone from the forward line.
We all know where that one landed. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)
Griezmann was burdened with the extra pressure of leading the line in the absence of Lionel Messi, and apart from the penalty — which he missed in typical Messi fashion — the World Cup winner did well.
Ousmane Dembele and Ansu Fati were lethal and gave the defenders a run for their money. The former scored the opener for Barcelona with a stunning solo effort, while the latter won the penalty just when the first half was coming to a close.
Pedri capped off the proceedings with a late goal — his first in La Liga — in a game he looked rather lethargic. Why won’t he be? This was his fifth start in a row, at the age of 17.
Finally, Messi’s second-half masterclass helped seal, sign and deliver the result. Signs of better things to come, and truth be told, it will be difficult not to be impressed with the team’s attacking prowess. The defence? Well, the less said, the better. Hopefully, the International Break comes as a blessing for Ronald Koeman before he takes on Joao Felix and Atletico Madrid.
Ousmane Dembélé talks Tuchel, Messi, Eto’o, Laporta
In an interview with BeIN Sports, Ousmane Dembele spilled beans on various topics ranging from football to personal life. The interview was conducted before yesterday’s Clásico.
The French winger is reportedly a player who the new president, Joan Laporta, admires a lot. Even during his campaign, the Catalan lawyer raised the issue of Dembele’s renewal. The club has invested heavily in Dembele and has finally started to reap results.
When asked the question about his contract renewal, Dembele explained: “My future? I still have a year left on my contract. There have been no discussions with the club, I’m happy and I feel good.
“A new president has arrived and I don’t really know him, but he is very close to the players. We’ll see how it goes.”
In all the reports that have come out and interviews given by the young players, all of them have mentioned that the club captain, Lionel Messi shares an exceptional with this new generation of players.
On the same lines the World Cup winner said: “Messi gives confidence to the young players in the team and helps us a lot. He gives me advice.”
Dembele is said to be liking his new role up top in the newly found 3-5-2 system by Koeman. He jokingly said in the interview that the dressing room now relates him to Samuel Eto’o, a former Barça legend: “As I now play up top, they call me Samuel Eto’o in the dressing room.”
The Barça winger had an excellent season at Dortmund which led to multiple European giants going into a bidding war for him.
His strike partner during his days in Germany was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, whom the Frenchman regarded as `his favorite teammate’. He also said that `Thomas Tuchel is his favorite coach’.