It is not known if Alavés or Barça were more in need. And, when in doubt, the game seemed doomed to 0-0 when the azulgrana found themselves with such a surprising and lucky move that they were slow to celebrate Frenkie de Jong’s goal. No local or foreign player had just believed the 0-1 in 87. The result compromises Alavés, who have not won since November and have not come out of relegation, while football betrays Barcelona, without game or encouragement, at one point still from the Champions zone and eliminated in a week from the Cup and the Super Cup. The azulgrana failed to put together a good game, relieved in any case by the victory, the third in a foreign field, after those of Villarreal and Mallorca.
Pacheco, Martín Aguirregabiria, Laguardia, Javi López, Lejeune, Luis Rioja (Edgar Méndez, min. 89), Pina (Toni Moya, min. 87), Jason, Escalante, Pere Pons (Miguel De La Fuente, min. 71) and Joselu
Ter Stegen, Ronald Araújo, Sergiño Dest, Piqué, Alba, Pedri (Clement Lenglet, min. 89), Busquets, Frenkie De Jong, Luuk de Jong (Ferrán Jutglà, min. 83), Ferrán Torres and Abdessamad Ezzalzouli (Nico González, min 70)
goals Min. 0-1 86: Frenkie De Jong.
Referee Jorge Figueroa Vazquez
Although Alavés is not Athletic, in Mendizorroza a match script similar to that of San Mamés was announced for Barça and it is not known whether Xavi’s boys stepped onto the pitch very cautiously out of fear or mistrust, they walked in slow motion, so far from Ter Stegen as from Pacheco. Barcelona’s caution surprised even Mendilibar’s team, usually intense and direct, more leisurely than usual against Barça. Alavés, after all, is known to be strong in the set pieces that plague Barça so much and the azulgrana seemed to be more afraid of the game than the opponent with the least scorer in the League (16) after conceding six goals in the two last matches against Athletic and Real Madrid.
Alavés’ offensive hardships surely led to Xavi recovering Dest as right back and insisting on the left with Alba. The knot of the crash revolved in any case around Busquets. The coach’s fidelity to the captain is unbreakable and the opposing coaches apply themselves to putting pressure on Barça’s controversial midfielder. The exit of the ball from the azulgrana area was again slow because nobody was associated with Busquets, there was also no finesse in the passing line and the forwards lacked dynamism and depth to reach Pacheco’s area. Possession was innocuous, control of the game was sterile no matter how well placed the players were and the only finisher who appeared was Luuk de Jong.
Barcelona missed Ansu, Dembélé and Memphis because Ferran did not come into play and Abde did not stop losing the ball no matter how much he exchanged his position against the Alavés sides. The party went away little by little for the Barça. After half an hour only two shots were counted, both outside Pacheco’s frame, just as unprecedented as Ter Stegen. Neither a shot, nor a dribble nor a play of merit in a very flat and increasingly subdued match, always aware of the strategy: Alavés was looking for a free kick and Barça a corner kick; headers with and without the ball followed one another in Mendizorroza. Alavés patiently awaited a mistake from Barça. He usually arrives in every game, also in Mendizorroza.
Alba bent Ferran badly in the last action before the break, the striker was sliced off the ball and in the transition Luis Rioja enabled Pere Pons. The Catalan midfielder finished loose at the hands of Ter Stegen. The play woke up the azulgrana when they left the locker room, and they went from not playing to attacking badly and falling back worse, luckily for Alavés’ transitions. Around Pedri, gigantic despite ending up busted in Bilbao, the Barcelona fans stirred up the fight and reached firing positions against Pacheco. It did not last long because the azulgrana had no sense or forcefulness and Alavés felt strong on the counterattack and second plays, and aggressive in crosses and fouls against Ter Stegen.
a change of drawing
Xavi began to move the bench and ordered a 3-4-3 without Abde and with Nico. Alavés was also encouraged, improved with De la Fuente’s offensive change, sharper since then than Barcelona. Joselu did not hit a free header, luck that dominates like no striker, after Luuk de Jong had not holed a ball that walked in front of Pacheco. The Barcelona daze lasted until the last stretch when he was already reneging on the veterans and Alba leaked a pass to get Ferran unchecked and his cross was pushed into the net by Frenkie de Jong.
The play, episodic on a frozen pitch, did not redeem the Barcelona fans, who lacked football and desire at the beginning and were successful at the end, redeemed by Frenkie de Jong’s goal. In the absence of leadership, without anyone making a difference, the Dutchman was activated and corrected a difficult game to digest, especially in the first half, so reprehensible that it will be difficult to forget with the 0-1. All matches are played heads and tails and it came out heads in Mendizorroza.
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