|Barcelona (3)||Valencia (1)|
|Ansu Fati 13′|
Memphis Depay 41′ (P)
Philippe Coutinho 85′
|Jose Gaya 5′|
Beleaguered Barcelona – sans Lionel Messi, encumbered by Ronald Koeman – were there for the taking. Just 5 minutes in, we looked like we were going to take all 3 points.
Captain Jose Gaya, freshly back from his injury, swooshed the net with a sweet, swerving strike from outside the D, after a Daniel Wass corner was half-cleared by Barcelona. Marc-Andre Ter Stegen with a fruitless dive, and Gaya – so often linked to the Catalan side – with a guttural grunt to celebrate. Game on.
The half-filled bowels of the Nou Camp churned in discomfort. An aching 589 days on, full capacity was finally sanctioned, yet only 47,000 were scattered across the ground. The crowd was languid, subdued.
But not Ansu Fati, also back after an extended lay-off and hustling to make up for lost time. Combining well with Memphis Depay and Jordi Alba to unsettle Dimitri Foulquier through the evening, the La Masia wunderkind wrapped a right-footed curler into Jasper Cillessen’s bottom left corner.
Gaya’s delirium became despair before the half was up. What appeared to be a goal-saving tackle to deny Fati was adjudged to be flagrant. Ridiculous. Depay blasted the penalty home.
The Los Che response for the 2nd period was heartening. Goncalo Guedes, yet again the focal point up front, wriggled smartly into space and slotted in Carlos Soler, who crashed his snapshot onto the inside of the post. Then the Portuguese himself tested the structural integrity of Ter Stegen’s left arm just minutes later with a thunderbolt.
Jose Bordalas once again showed the temerity of actually using his signings, unlike his predecessor. On came the calvary to salvage a point – enter new boys Marcos Andre, Helder Costa, along with Yunus Musah and Manu Vallejo. But it yielded nada.
Philippe Coutinho squeezed in a late goal to seal the win for a distinctly average Barcelona side. Valencia weren’t poor at all, but somehow contrived to flatter the home team with the final score. We had a game plan, we had our moments, we were disciplined. But they somehow weren’t enough. Up front, we seem to have little spark save for the flame of Guedes’ magic. Attacks were disjoint, with none really on the same wavelength as our sole attacking pivot.
That’s 5 winless games in LaLiga as we continue our slide down from unfamiliar heights just weeks ago. It’s not all bad, as the rebuild under Bordalas continues. But it’s not good either, as we muddle through the murkiness of midtable obscurity. Bordalas, who has never won at the Nou Camp, will be furious with this result. But he will also be furiously searching for solutions to get us back to winning ways.