Barcelona lost grip over their position as league leaders on Tuesday night after Mallorca pulled off what only one team had done so far this season – not lose to the Catalans.
Son Moix witnessed a gruelling battle between the two sides yesterday, with both teams coming close to scoring on multiple occasions. The battle eventually ended in a stalemate with the teams splitting the spoils.
Barça Universal brings you three talking points from Mallorca 2-2 Barcelona.
Ter Stegen’s woeful night
Marc Andre Ter-Stegen has been Barcelona’s single most important asset in recent times. The German shot-stopper’s unbelievable run of form played a critical role in the team’s La Liga campaign last season and even saw him win his first Zamora Trophy.
Ter Stegen did not start the new season equally well in terms of clean sheets. However, he maintained his shot-stopping prowess in the opening games of the season.
Tuesday’s match saw the goalkeeper collapse for the first time in a while. Both goals conceded on the night involved serious mistakes from the shot-stopper.
Mallorca’s opening goal on the night was made possible only because of Ter Stegen’s slack distribution. The No.1 misplayed a simple pass into the path of Mallorca’s forwards. A series of shots began which ultimately culminated in Vedat Muriqi finding the back of the net.
Just when it appeared like Barcelona had got back into the game with an equaliser, the goalkeeper made another error to gift the hosts the lead once more.
Barcelona’s defence does deserve a large part of the flak for the second goal conceded. Yet, it was Ter Stegen’s ill-timed charge that made Abdon Pratz’s decision to shoot easier and also obstructed Ronald Araujo from making an interception.
A recurring obstacle
Robert Lewandowski insisted after Barcelona’s 3-2 win over Celta Vigo that the Catalans were in dire need of a sustained solution against low blocks.
Over the years, it has become customary for teams in Spain to adopt a low defensive line with five defenders against the Catalans so as to frustrate them in attack and catch them on the break. Mallorca once again repeated the same with pre-planned precision.
The hosts had just 30% possession on the night with their low block. They recorded 28 tackles, 13 interceptions and 15 clearances over the course of the game in addition to 62 duels won.
Yet, Mallorca commendably did not allow their tight defence to inhibit their attacking flair. They pushed forward in numbers to build pressure on Ter Stegen’s goal while never really leaving spaces behind.
Javier Aguirre’s men dished out a tactical masterclass, especially in transition. However, that cannot be an excuse for Barcelona to struggle to carve open the defence, especially with the talent the manager has at his disposal.
The days to come will challenge the team with such frustrating defences time and time again. Xavi must devise a plan to counter the same, and fast.
A fluctuating race
It is only Matchday 7 in La Liga, and the title race is already shaping up well. The prime contenders, Barcelona and Real Madrid are close to each other at the top, separated by a surprise name in the form of Girona.
The Catalans’ 3-2 remontada against Celta Vigo propelled them to first place on the standings last weekend. Their position as numero uno was then solidified by Real Madrid’s defeat to Atletico Madrid which put them behind Xavi’s men by one point.
A win last night would have guaranteed the Blaugranas the top spot heading into the next matchday and would have ramped up the pressure on Real Madrid.
As it played out, however, they could only manage a draw and are just two points clear of Real Madrid. The Merengues play their game of the round later today against Las Palmas, and a win would see them leapfrog Barcelona.
It is too early in the season to read into standings and trends, but there is no doubt that a fierce title race is building up in Spain.