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La Liga: Elche CF 0-0 FC Barcelona: Match Review

A recap of FC Barcelona's goalless draw with Elche CF at the Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero which rather surprisingly didn't cost Barcelona the La Liga title as rivals Atletico Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw at the Vicente Calderon by Malaga CF

David Ramos

FC Barcelona kept their La Liga title hopes alive with a tense goalless draw in Alicante against relegation-threatened Elche CF, for whom the point was enough to secure safety. The Blaugrana created chances throughout the game and came closest through Andrés Iniesta and Alexis Sánchez who hit the crossbar and saw a goal disallowed respectively – but ultimately it wasn’t to matter as Atletico Madrid were held 1-1 by Malaga CF at the Vicente Calderon.






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90 minutes to keep the season alive. That’s what was facing FC Barcelona tonight as they set foot in Alicante, hoping to secure a vital win that would force a dramatic final day showdown with Atletico Madrid for the La Liga title. Facing off against an Elche CF side that were fighting to retain their place in the division, the Blaugrana would have to break the hosts’ impressive nine-match unbeaten streak at the Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero – a far from simple task.

Gerardo Martino continued to face something of an injury crisis, but still made a couple of gutsy calls. Stand-in club captain Xavi Hernández dropped to the bench – Cesc Fàbregas was his replacement. Would the change pay dividends? Could FC Barcelona keep their title hopes alive with a win?

The tension was palpable. The time had come for Barcelona to perform and they knew it. Immediately Barça forced Elche onto the back foot, winning a corner in the first 60 seconds of the match – they wanted an early goal to calm the nerves, to ease the pressure...with Gerard Piqué, Jordi Alba, Carles Puyol and Victor Valdés all still sidelined through injury, the defense wasn’t exactly exuding confidence. The attack would have to deliver, and it was encouraging to see them start brightly.

Lionel Messi was involved from the get-go, actively seeking possession rather than ambling about and waiting for the ball to come to him. Cesc Fàbregas looked hungry, eager to make a difference after Martino’s vote of confidence. Of course there were still weaknesses, but this looked more like the FC Barcelona of old – the dominance in possession, the appetite and work-rate of the team and the moments of brilliance from the star individuals. All that was missing was that opening goal.

Andrés Iniesta came close to providing us with that opener with less than a quarter of an hour on the clock – Elche failed to properly clear their lines following a dangerous corner from Lionel Messi and after his initial cross was blocked, Cesc Fàbregas cut the ball back to find Iniesta lurking on the edge of the area. Iniesta elected to take the shot on the volley and displayed tremendous technique to keep his effort down – it had the keeper beat, but unfortunately his shot rattled off the crossbar and rebounded to safety.

As time advanced, it increasingly appeared as though the pressure wasn’t on FC Barcelona – it was on the Elche defense. Another tense moment followed for the hosts’ backline as Alexis Sánchez raced clear and put the ball into the back of the net, only for the assistant referee to raise his flag for offside. It was a close call – one that could have gone either way, although on this occasion it went against Barcelona. No matter, the pressure was building and it seemed like a matter of "when" rather than "if" Barça would score the first goal.

Lionel Messi forced the first save of the evening on the 24 minute mark, cutting inside a plethora of green and white shirts to create space for a shot. It wasn’t his finest effort, but it was powerful and Manu Herrera did well to palm the ball round the post for a corner kick. A later and seemingly goalbound attempt from Messi was deflected – he was getting closer. Barcelona were getting closer, yet still we were waiting for that opening goal.

At the half hour mark, the scores were tied in all three of the matches with title implications. As things stood, a 0-0 draw was perfectly fine for FC Barcelona. There was one goal scored prior to the break in the title race – but it came at Balaidos where Celta Vigo took the lead against a second-string Real Madrid line-up. It had been tense and there hadn’t been any goals at the Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero, but at least Barcelona were still in the race.

They could have taken the lead just moments after the restart – Dani Alves has come in for some (unwarranted) criticism in recent months, but displayed exceptional vision to pick out the run of Lionel Messi from deep inside the Barça half. The execution was perfect as well – Messi was clean through on goal and you would have placed money on the Argentine to bury the chance and score. However, following the narrative of the 2013-14 season Messi was denied. In truth, part of me never felt like he was going to score. Let’s take nothing away from Manu who made the stop, but this wasn’t a confident Messi in front of goal and it showed.

Being honest, the chances were beginning to dry up. The visitors looked short of ideas, even if they were still dominating possession and territory. However, it still didn’t matter with Atleti tied. And then the unthinkable happened...

Malaga took the lead at the Vicente Calderon.

If they could hold on, the Barcelona result would be irrelevant. The title would go down to the last day irrespective of the score at the Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero – but it also represented a phenomenal chance for the Blaugrana. A win would now change the dynamic entirely.

With Barcelona and Atletico Madrid tied on points heading into the final day, a draw could be enough for Barça to retain the title. We were a long way away from thinking about that, as first, Barcelona needed to grab that goal.

Cristian Tello replaced Pedro as Gerardo Martino rolled the dice in an attempt to grab that goal – but it remained elusive. Atletico Madrid then grabbed an equaliser courtesy of Toby Alderweireld. We were back to square one, so Xavi Hernández was readied and replaced Cesc Fàbregas. Barcelona still didn’t need that goal, but it would have been nice.

Elche threatened at the other end through Garry Mendes, reminding Barcelona that they still had defensive work to do as well – but their main objective remained scoring that opening goal. Adriano Correia came close with a curling effort from long range though with five minutes left, the scores were still tied at 0-0 – and that’s how it would remain.

Thankfully, a last-ditch wonder save from Willy Caballero kept the scores tied at the Vicente Calderon – who cares about the goalless draw? The title was going down to the final day at the Camp Nou. And I’ll be there to witness it.

Until then, Visca el Barça!

Roll Call Info
Total comments 685
Total commenters 45
Commenter list AL_LM10, Alphie Ali, Anders Thomassen, Artemis11, BarcaLifer, BenX6, Bostjan Cernensek, Catalan_Blood, Eddie Pundell, Harshiv Karia, Inder Methil, JBeck12, Jonni, Lapulga, Maaz Rehman, NoImagination90, Outsmash, Ricardo Blonde, Ruy Diaz, Som-i-Serem, Team Rocket, ThreePar, Tokjee, Uncharted_Almo, ade fox, barca96, brodiebomber, craig00000, cule-since-1992, damaso, david.james, dlapa, feeya7, footballfordoze, footblob, messism, pogis1991, rnmrqz, sharma.himanshu.83, shubham2806, stocks712, sudama.baraily, syredeathtrooper, teamshao, thriller08
Story URLs
# Commenter # Comments
1 Artemis11 102
2 Inder Methil 64
3 NoImagination90 57
4 Bostjan Cernensek 35
5 Ruy Diaz 35
6 footballfordoze 34
7 teamshao 33
8 syredeathtrooper 31
9 Outsmash 27
10 feeya7 25

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