FC Barcelona somehow got themselves together after the toughest days in recent club history, and attempted to somehow stay focused on a football game against Villarreal on Sunday night at El Madrigal.
A minute of silence quieted the crowd just before kickoff. On the big screen, a photo of Tito with the words "Per Sempre Tito" was displayed.
As the minute of silence ended, the Liga broadcast did a close-up on Sergio Busquets' face.
Busi wiped away tears.
For that moment, Sergio Busquets represented all of FC Barcelona and all of their fans.
Great counterattacking goals got Villarreal a 2-0 lead by the 55th minute. It seemed that the sorrow and heartbreak of the events of last week would be too much for the team.
But then the team bounced back.
During the game, I said this:
A few weeks ago, I said that Dani Alves was in the latter part of his prime. Maybe he's already past his prime. #NothingButCrosses— Xoel Càrdenas (@XoelCardenas) April 27, 2014
In the 65th minute, a low cross by Dani Alves was deflected and Gabriel was credited with an own goal to get Barcelona back in the game.
In the 78th minute, another cross by Dani Alves was headed in by Villarreal's Mateo Musacchio to tie things up a 2-2. Unbelievable.
All of this led me to say:
LOL! Dani Alves' crosses only work when an opponent heads it in for Barça. Lol!— Xoel Càrdenas (@XoelCardenas) April 27, 2014
I take back all that I said, Dani.
In the 83rd minute, the magical comeback was completed as a great lob pass by Sergio Busquets to Cesc Fabregas, who then headed it to Messi who lastly put it past Villarreal goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo for the game-winner.
Messi and all the Barça players came together and pointed to the heavens. The goal and win was for Tito.
Call me crazy, but I think Barcelona had more than "luck" on their side. They had a guardian angel looking out for them on Sunday...and always will.
I must admit, I teared up when the game ended. I wanted Tito's team to win it for him, and they did just that.
Javier Mascherano broke down on the pitch at the end of the game. Marc Bartra and Adriano went over to comfort their teammate. The emotion was immense.
FINAL: Villarreal 2-3 FC Barcelona
The Best: Marc Bartra, Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas
Marc Bartra had a great game. The kid had a huge block in the first half to keep Villarreal scoreless at that point during the game. Bartra wasn't afraid to come up and be strong on defense as well. The kid is special. Of course Lionel Messi had a solid game. Messi was constantly surrounded by yellow jerseys, but he was able to get his teammates involved, and of course got the game-winner. Cesc Fabregas played well as a substitute. He brought a good spark of energy, and his lovely heading assist to Leo was sweet.
The VERY Worst: The racist that threw a banana at Dani Alves
It is sickening that in 2014, there are still people so filled with hate and racism in our world. Football has unfortunately had a long history of issues of racism and discrimination, especially in Spain and Spanish football. As a Latino and a fan of La Liga, it's truly embarrassing that these people come to Liga games and do this.
And if you are an NBA fan, you know that league is now in the middle of having to deal with a racist team owner.
I know that, sadly, we will never truly get rid of racism in our world, but it still is and will always be sickening to have to deal with it-even when we try to go have fun at a football game.
SAY NO TO RACISM
The VERY Best: Dani Alves eating the banana thrown at him and kicking racism in the face
In the 76th minute, Dani Alves went to take a corner kick for Barcelona. It was then when a racist threw a banana from the stands, which landed by Alves' feet, just inside the pitch.
What Dani Alves did next was a thing of beauty.
Dani picked up the banana, peeled it open, and took a big bite of it before throwing it away and taking the corner kick.
LIKE. A. BOSS.
As my friend Matthew Buening said:
Dani Alves eats racism for breakfast.— La Bestia Negra (@MatthewBuening) April 27, 2014
Neymar went on Instagram and said: "Greeeat, @danialvesd2 TAKE THAT, BUNCH OF RACISTS..."
After the game, Dani said this about the incident:
"Banana incident? I'm in Spain for 11 years now, and it has happened since the start. You have to laugh at those retards."
"I don't know who threw the banana, but I'd want to thank him. It gave me energy to give 2 more crosses that ended up in goal."
Eres grande, Dani! Thank you for eating the banana and kicking racism its fat, ugly face!
Xoel's Final Word
It was one of the most difficult games for FC Barcelona, but not because of the opponent, with all due respect to Villarreal.
After some of the toughest days imaginable, FC Barcelona went into the Madrigal and tried to somehow find the emotional strength to focus and play a football game. They went down 2-0 in the second half, and all seemed lost, which was understandable.
But then, an own-goal got it to 2-1, then another OG made it 2-2. Finally, Lionel Messi got the goal to make it 3-2 in one of the most improbable wins in FC Barcelona history.
It was more than just a game. It was a game and win dedicated to a great football manager, but more importantly, the game was dedicated to a great man and fighter.
At the end of the game, Xavi spoke about this game:
"It was very difficult to play today. We didn't feel good. The club lost a reference point. Tito will always be an example."
"We wanted to dedicate this win to Tito. We worked hard for it. This is for his family."
Tito, we love you. This win was for you and your family. Your team did well today, and your team did you proud.
Per Sempre Tito!
Xoel, The Voice of els Culés