If you didn’t watch last night’s match, you missed a great game. Unfortunately, fellow writer Guidance was unavailable and the task of giving the players a rating falls to me. So here’s my uber-biased thoughts on the game.
First off, kudos to the whole team and Pep Guardiola(good substitutions) for putting up a great fight and winning the match.
Victor Valdes 6.5
VV had a relatively quiet game and really couldn’t do much more about that goal the team conceded. If one were into the details, it could be argued that Victor was a little slow on the uptake but in my opinion, the blame falls on Adriano.
Dani Alves 7.5 Yellow
Ah good ol’ danny boy. *If I were Irish and drunk, I’d sing the song* Seriously, he did a good job of running tirelessly down that right flank. Played a few one-two’s in and around the box. Oh, should have gotten a penalty as well but obviously Barca are going to have to get used to winning without the referee. Fact is, by now even the most ardent *thou-shalt-not-blame-the-referee* fan, must be asking questions. Anyhow, the brazilian full back did a good job but I have no idea why he got a yellow.
Gerard Pique 5.5 Red
Well, Shakira’s boytoy just can’t keep his name out of the media these days eh? Rest assured, this time it was not his fault. Geri got himself a red card for what replays clearly show as the ball hitting him and then while attempting to regain possession, two players tripped over each other. Red was simply too harsh considering that Real Madrid seem to be playing football based on different rules. Nonetheless, it would be hard to judge any of the players considering how many yellow cards the referee was shelling out all night. I have a strange feeling he continued to give out cards on his way home as well.
I have to admit it. Mascherano is doing himself a world of good by going about his job in a no nonsense way. The midfielder/defender kept things simple and made some good interceptions. Like Sergio Busquets in midfield, the Argentine knows he’s had a good day when people don’t mention his name too often. Keep in mind that the game ended with Barcelona having around 75% possession, so the defense wasn’t really tested. However, at this rate Javier will be Barca’s first choice centre back along with Carles Puyol. Note:Pique will probably start the CL game against Leverkusen allowing Pep to rest Puyol/Mascherano (depending on who needs it more).
Yes, I blame him for the goal we conceded. Adriano shouldn’t have allowed the cross which ended up being Gijon’s only goal of the match. However, the Brazilian did show presence of mind to pull the ball back to Iniesta for Barca’s first goal. In general, he did make himself available on the left flank when the team were attacking (which was pretty much the whole game).
Cesc Fabregas 5.5
Just one of those days for our prodigal son. Pretty much invisible the whole game, Fabregas showed that he has a bit to learn as far as his tactical positioning is concerned. Let’s be honest, it is difficult to criticise him too much because this is his first year and 15 goals,15 assists already confirms it to be a successful one. However the dilemma that Pep faces untill Fabregas figures out the smaller details (like when to step into midfield to help keep possession and when to stay forward): what formation suits the Catalan the best? The 3-4-3 is perfect for Cesc because it brings out the best of his abilities and combines it effectively with his telepathic relationship with Lionel Messi. The 4-3-3 with Cesc in midfield is a bit of a hindrance because he isnt anywhere as good as Iniesta or Xavi in keeping the ball and moreover that innate ability to be patient under pressure which the duo are famous for. Nonetheless, Fabregas will get better but last night was not his best game in the blue and red.
Xavi 8.0 Yellow
The General is showing another side to his game. Scoring goals. Xavi has broken his personal record for goals scored in a season. The Catalan has 12 goals to his name with quite a few games left to continue his streak. It seems, Xavi’s favourite is to chip one over the keeper to conclusively end whichever match he chooses to score in. Of course, sticking to custom, the Catalan picked up a yellow card as well and by now I’ve lost count of why or how. Maybe Madrid’s conspiracy involves making sure that all key players are suspended by the time the next Clasico comes around? *Keep in mind I’m only half joking about the Madrid quips and really in the end it will be Barca’s fault if they don’t win the league*
Andres Iniesta 9.0 Yellow
The Ghost conquered midfield last night and was the main driving force behind the team’s attacking prowess. Barcelona is simply not the same without him. Iniesta scored the first goal and assisted Xavi for Barca’s third with a truly sublime messi-esque pass. Running at defenders like no other player can, Iniesta forced two of Gijon’s players to converge on him while somehow being aware that Xavi was making a run into space and executed the perfect pass. Really, what more can you say about the man that hasn’t been said before? Arguably man of the match with Seydou Keita. Oh, he got a yellow card as well but then you knew that by now right? I think, if my memory serves me right, it was for dissent in the argument that ensued Pique’s red card.
Seydou Keita 9.0 Yellow
Along with the yellow card, the Malian got himself a lot of fans with a strike that was stunning. Keita was starting his first game after the African cup and justified Pep Guardiola’s blind faith in him. I vaguely remember a quote by our illustrious manager along the lines of "As long as I’m here, Keita won’t be sold". After last night, I really hope that’s true and that he remembers last night’s goal come the summer transfer window. It’s quite surprising how often Keita scores or assists considering that he isn’t a starter for Barcelona. The midfielder had a brilliant game by contributing with a keypass in the build up to Barca’s first goal and scoring the all important second when Barca were 1-1 and a man down. Golazo is the only word that describes the strike, a left footed curler that would have made a world class striker proud. Finally, I can say with confidence that Keita is a central midfielder and not a defensive midfielder (I’ve always wondered about where he fits in) although he was alright when he was called to defend.
The Canary islander needs to buck up. This is not Chelsea where a striker can go a few months without scoring, but Barcelona with a long list of forwards/wingers from the B team waiting to take his spot in the team. Cristian Tello being on top of that list. I might be a little harsh but what fans of the club are looking for is some form of contribution from Pedro. One simply cannot deny his work rate though and like Villa before him, if the goals are drying up, Pedro will run till he drops and that’s always good to see. However the winger needs to improve on his first touch, a player can get away only for so long with a poor first touch in a team like Barcelona where the system is based on one touch passing. Let’s hope we see the Pedro of last year soon. Pedro was removed around the 60 minute mark.
Isaac Cuenca 6.5
Inexperienced. Cuenca has obvious talent and is capable of beating multiple defenders as well as make a pass. However, in my opinion, it’s the lack of experience at this level which reduces how effective he is. Nothing anybody can do about that and Cules will just have to wait. In general, Cuenca did well and showed his pace but seemed to lack that final ball. He was replaced later on in the game by Cristian Tello.
Cristian Tello 6.5
The fresh legs definitely helped in that Tello’s pace helped create some panic in Gijon’s defense. The youngster is definitely making a name for himself and it would be a huge surprise if he isn’t promoted next season.
Alexis Sanchez 7.0
Had a clear shot on goal right after he was brought on but took one touch too many and scuffed the shot. Worse still, he suffered from a groin injury in the final minutes of the game and left the field. Reports are that Alexis will be out for 10-15 days and I can only hope that we don’t need him during the Leverkusen game. However, he did bring his good ability to hold onto the ball while laying off to his team mates. Alexis continues to amaze me simply cause he brings so much to Barca’s game. Namely: his strength allows him to hold on to the ball with his back to goal something that he displayed in the build up to Keita’s goal with a deft touch. Ability wise, Alexis is the closest we have to Messi and I assumed he would start the game. Second, his explosive pace is a pleasure to watch. All in all, he didn’t have much of an effect on the game but did assist Keita for the second goal. Let’s hope he’s back from injury soon.
Carles Puyol 6.5
Only 10 minutes left on the clock, Barca were leading by one goal and were down to 10 men (9 when Alexis was removed in injury time) and who better in the world to bring into the match than El Capitan?Puyol’s ability to calm my ever-on-edge nerves is amazing and when he was brought on, I had just one thought in my head "HA,you could shoot the man and he will still not let Gijon score". The man is a leader and I’m glad Pep decided to play him for the final minutes. However, in retrospect, I guess it seemed unnecessary cause Xavi scored Barca’s third.
Note: It was a brilliant performance by the team more cause of their never-say-die attitude and Pep Guardiola capped it all off by making the right substitutions while making sure that the team continued to attack and stick to their principles. Ironically, Pique being sent off actually helped the Blaugrana win the game. Sporting and Clemente made the mistake of thinking that they could win the match and made attacking substitutions. Further, Gijon opened up in the Camp Nou, when was the last time any of you remember a team attacking Barcelona at home in a league match like that?
The referee (yes, the same guy who refused to give us two penalties against Valencia) saw fit to produce 13 cards yesterday. 5 (4 yellow +1 red) for Barcelona. Maybe it was some kind of nervous twitch? While shelling out cards for God knows what, he also denied another two penalties. The first was a clear and blatant foul on Dani Alves in the box when the defender made absolutely no attempt at getting the ball and the other for a clear-as-daylight handling of the ball in the box but obviously not given. However if the ball were to bounce off the knee and touch Alexis’ hand while he was attempting score (like in the Atletico Madrid game), somehow the referees were able to see that through a sea of bodies. Hmm, Yes the rules say Alexis did touch the ball although unintentionally but something has got to give right? Maybe one of these days, the Spanish referees will wake up and remember the rules, then again, don’t get your hopes up.