Barcelona keep Copa dreams alive
Barcelona’s Copa del Rey bid looked to be over with the team 2-0 down and running out of time at Los Carmenes but an extraordinary comeback saw the team safely into the last four.
The nature of Barca’s win should fill the team with confidence and belief, after all it’s been a little while since the team have been on the right end of a late and dramatic comeback.
Barca now go on on to face either Levante, Sevilla or the winners of tonight’s final quarter-final between Real Betis or Athletic at the Benito Villamarin.
The Catalan giants will discover their fate in Friday’s draw, and it’s worth noting that the competition now reverts back to a two-legged affair for the semi-finals.
Defensive mistakes still a concern
Of course, Barca had to do it the hard way with Granada taking the lead against the run of play after some poor defending from Samuel Umtiti. The Frenchman received a tricky pass from Sergio Busquets but still should have cleared the ball rather than lose it to Alberto Soro.
6 - Barcelona have made more errors leading to goals than any other LaLiga team this season in all competitions: Neto Murara , Marc-André ter Stegen , Clément Lenglet , Ronald Araujo , Lionel Messi y Samuel Umtiti . Risk. pic.twitter.com/MKMUUFjELi— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 3, 2021
Umtiti hardly covered himself in glory for the second goal either. The defender was caught ball-watching and then could not catch up with Roberto Soldado who made it 2-0 early in the second half.
It was something of a surprise to see Umtiti in the starting XI again but also a surprise to see the Frenchman caught out after some impressive performances so far in 2020-21.
This time Barca did manage to recover and go on to win the game, but they really can’t afford to keep on making mistakes at the back if they are to win this competition and also continue in the Champions League which resumes later this month.
Messi leads by example
One of the more surprising stats from Wednesday’s win was that Lionel Messi’s name was not on the scoresheet even though Barca scored five. That doesn’t mean the captain didn’t play a key role, far from it, in fact the stats show he did pretty much everything but score.
| That was perfect!— SofaScore (@SofaScoreINT) February 3, 2021
Lionel Messi v Granada:
⏱️ 120' played
160 touches (most)
️ 1 assist
10 key passes (most)
11 shots/7 on target (most)
9/13 succ. dribb. (most)
90/109 acc. pass.
⚔️ 12/19 duels won
10 SofaScore rating
Magician at work. #GranadaBarca pic.twitter.com/lxAnhi41Tu
Indeed it was a tireless performance from the 33-year-old. He drew plenty of saves from Granada goalkeeper Aaron, who deserves credit for his performance, and simply didn’t stop all night long.
Barca’s first two goals, which forced extra-time, both came from Messi crosses to the far post, while it was his shot that ultimately led to Frenkie de Jong making it 4-3 in extra-time after Granada had levelled from the penalty spot.
A truly influential performance from the captain on a night where Barca put in the kind of team display that could well influence Messi’s thoughts about the future.
Terrific trio make the difference
Picking a man of the match for this one was was tricky, and possibly a little unfair, with Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong and Jordi Alba all putting in phenomenal performances to carry Barca to victory.
Griezmann continued his superb form and had a hand in four of Barca’s five goals on the night. That’s now 12 in total for the season for Barca and another very impressive performance by the Frenchman.
De Jong also popped up with another crucial goal and seemed to be everywhere throughout the 120 minutes. Griezmann jokingly likened the Dutchman to Pippo Inzaghi after the match after his latest poached goal.
And then there’s Jordi Alba who seemed to spend the whole night attacking. His first goal took the game into extra-time, while his second was a stunning volley that finished off a superb win in perfect style.
Is this a turning point for Barca?
It’s been a complicated season for Barca again, for many reasons, but this felt like a turning point. The team were staring defeat in the face, the ball didn’t seem to want to go in and the season looked like being all but over by February.
Yet Barca simply kept on going and found a way to turn things around and complete a memorable win. There were plenty of star performances, as already mentioned, but this was also a real team performance.
Ronald Araujo put in another immense display at the back, Pedri continues to shine in his first full season, and Riqui Puig and Ousmane Dembele both made a real impact off the bench.
There’s a growing sense that this team is going somewhere, and a real sense of unity seems to be developing between the players. Koeman called it a “giant step forwards” after the match, and this was certainly a game that will live long in the memory for Barca fans.