analysis | 2015-09-17
Match Report: Roma - Barça 1:1 - Mixed feelings
An amazing goal by Florenzi and a solid defensive performance held Barça to a draw in the Champions League opener
“It looks bad, really bad”, said Luis Enrique in the press conference. Just two minutes after coming on in the second half, Rafinha Alcántara was on the receiving end of a hard tackle by Nainggolan. There’s no official statement, but the twist of his right knee was such a cause for concern that any match analysis was secondary. The Brazilian was finally picking up form and could be out for the season. Unfortunate injuries…
Roma began the match briskly, looking to overwhelm Barcelona right from the kick-off. The culés connected more passes and they maintained the possession in the opponent's half as the minutes went by. It was then when the locals retracted their lines with a 4-3-3 formation with Dzeko, Falque and Salah as their attacking men. The latter was a real headache for Barcelona, by taking advantage of Jordi Alba’s bad positioning in key match moments, outrunning him several times.
Suárez was the utility player in Barcelona. He defined himself as the attacking relief by pivoting for his teammates or by gluing to the opponents’ centre-backs. And he scored on the first clear chance he had. Mathieu started on the right attacking flank, where Rakitic was occupying Messi’s and Sergi Roberto’s space. The Croat crossed the ball and Suárez nailed the header into the far post.
It seemed the culés had the match under control, but Salah’s sprints and the hustle from the stands kept the contest on alert. The equalizer came in an unexpected fashion, though. Florenzi was conducting the ball in the right band when he decided to score one of the best goals you will ever see in the Champions League. He shot from there to the opposite side; the ball hit the post and went in. If you want to blame anything on ter Stegen, it’s that he lost sight of the ball, but Florenzi’s shot was outstanding. A goal worthy of Olympus.
Rudi García’s ranks were encouraged by the goal and they looked for Barça's box, always by Salah’s wing, the Roman hammer. Barcelona’s ball circulation became slower and the positional attack didn’t create any danger, with Messi and Neymar well covered by the Italian defensive system.
There were very few times that Roma crossed the halfway line in the second half. Barcelona moved their lines forward and they played mostly in the attacking half, with Piqué and Mathieu placed very high. Even so, the entrenched Italians took advantage of Barça’s inability to find attacking spaces, while Messi came down the middle to build the plays, Neymar placed himself as the playmaker and Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto worked almost as pure wingers, even more so when Mascherano came in for the injured Rafinha. It seemed Barcelona was the home team and they needed to win the match because of the effort and quality they displayed.
Messi hit the post while both Neymar and Jordi Alba crashed against the Roman defense, which piled up players who protected the goal like gladiators but didn’t have the skill to counterattack. The perfect example, as always, was Keita, generous in his efforts, essential to stop Messi’s sprints - pressing but without tackling - and smart to find the spaces and to offer himself the few times that Roma was able to maintain the possession. Rüdiger, Keita and Salah were the backbone upon where Roma’s defense and transition were built.
Barcelona was somewhat slow in ball circulation and they were lacking ideas up front, despite their attitude in the second half when they struggled for the win instead of being pleased with the result. Iniesta designed the build-up of the positional attack, Messi took on the role of the organizer and architect, while Neymar garnished the plays and Suárez was the laborer performing the hard work. There was a lack of precision but not of desire. The former will arrive. There’s never enough of the latter.
Anything wrong? Send your correction.
Article translated from Spanish to English, originally published at the Perarnau Magazine by Ismael Ledesma.
WRITTEN BY: Ismael Ledesma
Ismael Ledesma coordinates and writes at Martiperarnau.com. He also collaborates with the press department of UD Levante @LevanteUDDM and LevanteUDRadio.
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.