In all seriousness, this game should not have been played. With police firing rubber bullets at the citizens of Barcelona, the very thought of a game actually taking place should not have been on the agenda. With threats of docked points, six months suspensions and more, Barcelona’s board decided to play the match behind closed doors.
The build up to the game was consumed by talk of whether it was going ahead. Yes, no, yes, no for hours and even when the Barcelona goalkeepers took to the field to warm up, no one was certain if the game was on. Barcelona’s board wanted to postpone but with opposition from the Liga, the game did go ahead in an empty Camp Nou.
The viewing was bizarre, the players emerged with the club anthem blaring but there was no fans within the ground to greet them. An empty Camp Nou stared at the team and match officials as they prepared for kick off. The match seemed like a practice game. You could hear every shout, every kick of the ball and every crunching tackle. Ernesto Valverde and Pako Ayestarán would have no trouble conveying messages to their players in this lifeless stadium.
Unable to be spurred on by the crowd, Barcelona’s game was flat. They saw plenty of the ball in the opening stages but it was sterile possession. Unable to create any real chances. The first half came to a close with neither side having a clear sight at goal and minds continuing to be away from the actual football.
The problem with the empty stadium was it made it impossible to forget the outside events. Football has a unique ability to halt the troubles of the outside world for 90 minutes but with every empty red, blue or yellow seat, there was a constant reminder of happenings elsewhere.
The second half saw the introduction of Andrés Iniesta and Ivan Rakitić to the game and with it a directness. The Barça team moved with purpose and it was not long before they got their first goal.
A long range Rakitić effort was pushed over for a corner and Lionel Messi stepped up to take the kick. An in-swinging effort was met by Sergio Busquets. His header went down and into the net as he wheeled away to celebrate, momentarily forgetting the fans were not there.
After getting the opener, Barcelona continued to press for the second. They were awarded a good chance on the counterattack with Luis Suárez breaking clear. The Uruguayan again looked like a player bereft of confidence as he took so long on the ball, getting it stuck between his legs. His attempt to get around the keeper worked and then he dived in the hopes of penalty. The referee was not having it and booked the striker.
After a rather embarrassing bit of play, Suárez showed some good work in the 56th minute. Tenaciously making his way through the Las Palmas defence, his cross was a perfect head height for an arriving Messi. Surprisingly though, the Argentine put his effort wide.
It was not long after this that Messi did get his 13th goal of the season. Beautifully breaking an offside trap, allowed him to easily take the ball around the keeper. He calms slotted the ball home and gave Barça that two goal cushion.
Barcelona were crushing and seven minutes after his first, Messi got his second. Rakitić to Suárez to Messi to the back of the net. It was a lovely passing move that confirmed all three points were going to Barça.
Iniesta was withdrawn for Andre Gomes and the game finished at 3-0. Barcelona players should be applauded for putting a professional display in such difficult times and they will now depart to be with their respective national teams.