analysis | 2016-02-21
Match Report: Las Palmas 1:2 Barcelona - UD Las Palmas do not inspire Barcelona
Barcelona survived a tough match against Las Palmas thanks to Iniesta's inspiration and Suarez' and Neymar's goals
Quique Setién’s approach was the pressure as a defensive weapon instead of the more conventional double pivot and a lot of attacking presence between the lines, demanding from Barcelona the best ball control possible and timing to recover the possession. But without Piqué and Busquets both virtues, customary in the culés’ game, were more difficult. Their absence also caused other side effects, such as Alba’s and Alves’ struggles in the bands.
Before any of this happened, we enjoyed of a wonderful 20 minutes by Andrés Iniesta. On just the 7th minute he sent a superb pass to space towards Alba’s run, who took advantage of Neymar’s wit move by dragging David García out of his area, for the Catalan full-back to assist Luis Suárez: 0-1.
Yet the Unión Deportiva did not take long to demonstrate the match was all but over. Only three minutes later, after a mistake by Alves, Jonathan Viera invented a genius back heel pass for Willian José to beat Bravo while Alba put him on-side. We were back to square one and Barça already have conceded 38 goals in the season so far, the same amount they conceded during the entire 2014-15 season until the Berlin’s final.
On the 15th minute, Iniesta left Messi all alone facing Varas, close to the second goal. The Manchego was so in tune that he even tried a dangerous shot from outside the box. But the local squad led by Roque Mesa, was playing against Barcelona inspiringly. Sergio Roberto was having issues to gauge the spaces and he wasn’t able to contribute to the game’s fluidity either. Actually, the combination with Arda as an interior didn’t help in this matter, since the Turk is still lacking the rhythm and positional skill required to play as a midfielder on this team. Turan was booked, he was at the edge of his second yellow card and he would end up being replaced by Rakitic after halftime.
Meanwhile, Luis Suárez kept playing his game. By the 30th minute, he missed by an inch a header from a precise cross from Messi but the frustration he lets everyone sees does not stop him from thinking of the next ball as if it were the last one. He received a pass to the open field from Alves, he tried a diagonal cross over the area but was intercepted. He started off again but ran out of space near the goal line, yet he improvised a dribble on the spot. He passed it on to Messi and Neymar smashed it home after Varas rejected the Argentinian’s shot. We were 1-2 with a superb exhibition of the Uruguayan’s skills in just one play. Priceless striker.
After the beginning of the second half Barcelona’s intentions were crystal clear, now with Rakitic on the pitch: to control better the game and to avoid the box-to-box match proposed by Setién. But they managed to achieve this in few occasions. Las Palmas soon lost Viera due to physical issues and the wind howling against them during the second half didn’t help the local squad either. The match seemed to slacken little by little at times but with the feeling it was an open game. Luis Enrique moved Mascherano forward to the midfield, surely looking for some leadership to preserve the score because football-wise that hasn’t been a good idea for quite some time ago. Vermaelen replaced Sergi Roberto meaning that two left centre-backs were on the pitch, which demonstrates Bartra’s lack of presence in the defensive rotations.
However, and despite the substitution, Barça suffered until the final whistle. Suárez wasted a couple of excellent scoring chances and the culés front line couldn’t escape from the local team offside traps as they did it in the earlier stages of the clash. The Canarians almost leveled the scoreboard twice, by means of Araujo and Momo. As a matter of fact, the only time the trident overcame the four men defensive line, Neymar couldn’t beat Varas and on the very next play, there were up until five agonizing deflections from the Blaugranas in order to secure the three points at stake. Bravo/ter Stegen, Piqué, Busquets, Iniesta, Messi, Suárez and Neymar are the backbone of this team. It’s better not to forget that bedazzled by the three strikers luxury.
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Article translated from Spanish to English, originally published at the Perarnau Magazine by Daniel Cana.
TRANSLATED BY: Jaime Ibarra
Jaime is a chemical engineer from Venezuela who is passionate about football and Barça. He loves the club’s history and he has been an unconditional fan since Ronaldo “The Phenomenon” amazed the world with the Blaugrana colors.