Pique says a tearful goodbye
Saturday’s match was always going to be an emotional one as Gerard Pique said goodbye to the Camp Nou and so it proved as the defender received a lot of love from his team-mates and the 92,605 fans packed inside the stadium.
The defender was named captain for the night and led his team out to chants of ‘Piq-ue, Pi-que, Piq-ue’. His every touch was cheered and the crowd seemed to hold its breath when Barca were awarded an early penalty.
Pique knew better though. He pointed to Robert Lewandowski to take the kick but somehow the striker missed and everyone wondered if maybe Pique should have taken it after all.
An emotional night looked like being a frustrating one until Ousmane Dembele and Frenkie de Jong came up with the goals. Pique then left to a standing ovation, hugs for all his team-mates and a few tears in a fitting send off to a true club legend.
Barca can win without Lewandowski scoring
Barcelona have relied on Robert Lewandowski’s goals this season but that wasn’t the case against Almeria. The striker was presented with La Liga’s October Player of the Month award before kick-off and looked set to add to his tally when the hosts won a penalty.
There was a fairly lengthy VAR delay before Lewandowski finally stepped up to take the spot-kick and when he did it was a real disappointment. There was a stutter, a little skip and the ball nicked the post on its way out of play.
Barcelona then went on to have 16 shots in the first half against Almeria without scoring and it took until the second half for the Catalans to find their shooting boots.
16 - @FCBarcelona have made 16 shots, their highest tally in the first half in @LaLigaEN since November 2011 v Zaragoza (17) and with their highest negative balance of expected goals in the first 45 minutes in the competition since 2010/11 campaign (-2.31). Insistence. pic.twitter.com/aWVUk5ftpP— OptaJose (@OptaJose) November 5, 2022
Dembele eventually broke the deadlock in some style with a wonderful goal before De Jong made the game safe. Barca should probably have had a few more but will settle for two goals, three points and first place in La Liga.
Hot and cold Dembele strikes again
One player who definitely could have had another goal was Dembele. The Frenchman demonstrated again his brilliant skill when he weaved past two defenders before finding the bottom corner for the first goal.
Unfortunately Dembele then showed his maddening inconsistency with another effort just minutes later. Again he was played through, and again he played brilliantly to round the goalkeeper.
1 - @dembouz has scored three goals in his last five home games, as many as in his previous 30 such games in all competitions for @FCBarcelona . The French has scored in consecutive home games in @LaLigaEN for the first time (57 games played). Fine. pic.twitter.com/ptSdCIJv9T— OptaJose (@OptaJose) November 5, 2022
His second of the night then looked a formality with the goal gaping, but Dembele dawdled, couldn’t quite make up his mind what to do and before you knew it the chance was gone.
The episode summed up Dembele’s season so far. The Frenchman was unplayable against Villarreal, anonymous against Valencia and hit and miss against Almeria.
Frustrated Ferran fumes after being subbed
Ferran Torres also had a frustrating night. The Spain international was named in the starting XI again and looked bright but once again was let down by some suspect finishing. He also conspired with Dembele to produce a chance that either could have finished but neither did.
Xavi opted to replace Ferran on the hour and the 22-year-old sulked off and looked absolutely fuming on the bench at his removal. You can understand his frustration as he’s been battling to make an impact this season and will feel this is an opportunity missed.
Xavi defended the attacker after the game and spoke about what he brings to the team.
“He gives us many things. People will value him for his goals, we for many other things. He always gives a 7/10 or higher, he works for you, he picks spaces and he is generous,” he said.
“I have a lot of confidence in him at work. He’s been very good, he’s incisive, he doesn’t stop fighting, he doesn’t stop believing.”
Ter Stegen matches last season’s record
Saturday’s win brought yet another clean sheet for Barca, that’s now 11 in 13 La Liga matches this season, despite playing most of the season with a patched up backline due to injuries.
Ter Stegen once again caught the eye with an important save from Largie Ramazani.
Almeria have a dreadful record at Barcelona but were offered a glorious chance to open the scoring when Frenkie de Jong’s attempted pass to Pique was intercepted.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen has already matched his clean sheet record from last season in LaLiga pic.twitter.com/jlpClY6612— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) November 6, 2022
Ramazani ran through on goal and only had Ter Stegen to beat. The German wasn’t quite sure whether to come or not but ended up standing his ground and blocking Ramazani’s effort.
The goal stopped Almeria taking a shock lead and spoiling Pique’s party. Ter Stegen didn’t have too much to do after that but you get the sense he’s feeling almost invincible in La Liga right now.