More VAR frustration in La Liga
There’s been plenty of focus on VAR and refereeing decisions since La Liga resumed, and there was more controversy on Tuesday in a game that featured three penalties and an own goal.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen saved Diego Costa’s first penalty only to see the kick retaken because VAR official Mateu Lahoz had spotted he was fractionally off his line, something that happens regularly but is hardly ever enforced.
Barcelona then won a pretty soft penalty when Nelson Semedo went to ground, but Lahoz made amends by confirming yet another spot-kick when Yannick Carrasco fell over after managing to trip himself up.
The standard of officiating in La Liga since lockdown has been pretty poor, and on this evidence looks set to continue for the rest of the season.
Title hope fade
This was a match that Barcelona simply had to win to keep their La Liga hopes alive but more dropped points means the title has drifted even further away.
Real Madrid can move four points clear with five games left if they beat Getafe on Thursday which might just spell the end of Barcelona’s reign as Spanish champions.
Indeed it’s difficult to even see Barcelona winning all of their remaining games. They have drawn three of their last four matches and head to Villarreal next.
Riqui Puig the only positive
On another disappointing night for Barcelona the only real positive was the performance of Riqui Puig who continues to offer optimism for the future.
The 20-year-old fully deserved to keep his place in the starting XI and was Barca’s brightest performer against Atletico Madrid.
Has @RiquiPuig earned a permanent place in the @FCBarcelona XI? #BarçaAtleti pic.twitter.com/uHCnPwTQUD— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) July 1, 2020
Puig had appeared pretty fired up before the match, in what was the biggest game of his Barca career so far, and once again did his talking on the pitch.
The youngster seemed to enjoy his battle against Thomas Partey, which should quieten those who doubt if he has the physique to make it at Barca, in a performance that bodes well for the future.
Messi finally hits 700
Tuesday’s game also saw Lionel Messi finally hit his 700th career goal. The GOAT had gone three games without scoring heading into the match but hit his latest landmark in style with a Panenka penalty.
700 - Lionel Messi has scored his 700th first-team goal for Barcelona (630) and Argentina (70). Iconic. pic.twitter.com/vx3dJGgpaD— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 30, 2020
Yet it was a bittersweet moment for Messi. Only six players in the history of the game have ever gone past 700, but the achievement is likely to be overlooked given the result and the context of the season.
It’s worth noting that Messi also had a hand in the first goal too. His corner was turned home by Diego Costa, and he almost scored a brilliant curling effort that flew inches wide of Jan Oblak’s top corner.
Messi now has 22 goals and 17 assists in 28 La Liga appearances this season.
Increasing pressure on Setien
If there was pressure on Quique Setien before the match there will be even more now after another disappointing display. The Barca boss switched formation to a 4-4-2 which was an interesting move but saw his side let the lead slip twice during the match.
Once again his substitutions were perplexing and left too late. Sergi Roberto arrived on the hour but didn’t add much, while Ansu Fati came on in the 85th minute and Antoine Griezmann five minutes after.
Setien insisted after the game his team had been “extraordinarily good” and that he feels “supported by the dressing room” despite Barcelona dropping more points.
At this point it’s increasingly difficult to see Setien still being in charge at the start of next season.