FC Barcelona lost its first official game since the 30th of April today when Getafe CF managed a close 1-0 victory. In what was expected by culés and pundits alike as an easy three points for Barça, the display by the blaugrana players was lifeless and disappointing, to say the least. Since the loss means a fairly extensive six point deficit to La Liga leaders Real Madrid, the reaction after the game was pessimistic, even fatalist – the competition for the league is over and it’s only November. To that, culés everywhere need to resist the negativity and have faith in the club. Més que un club means it will take more than one loss to end the season.
Guardiola chose to field a much modified lineup from the midweek Champions League clash with AC Milan. Cesc was left out of the match squad as a precaution due to discomfort in his left thigh. Puyol was likewise missed presumably for rest after his exertions against Milan. Instead, the starting eleven consisted of Valdés, Alves, Piqué, Abidal, Maxwell, Busquets, Xavi, Thiago, Alexis, Villa, and Messi.
The first half kicked off in a relatively positive way. Barcelona was the team with the most possession and most shots on goal, as per usual in Barça’s games. It seemed that the long awaited breakthrough would eventually come, and then goals would flow from the feet of our players. In the 7th minute, Villa was taken down just outside of the box, but the resulting Messi free kick sailed just wide.
In the 19th minute, Maxwell proved this was not to be his game when he was shown a yellow card for a hard tackle. Just a few minutes later in the 24th minute, a Getafe player received the team’s first yellow when Lacen came in with a late tackle on Busquets. Messi almost scored in the 29th minute but had Getafe goalkeeper Moyà steal the ball from his feet. Seven minutes later, it was Alexis who took a blistering shot but Moyà again was up to the challenge.
Piqué picked up a yellow card in the 44th minute after fouling Diego Castro, but that was the last action of the first half. Entering halftime with a 0-0 score line did not sit easy with the team or fans, especially after the majority of chances had been created by the blaugrana. However, it was clear that the usual spark and winning flair was missing from the team.
Surprisingly, Guardiola made no halftime substitutions. In fact, the first substitution of the half did not occur until after Casquero went into the books in the 47th minute with a yellow card for a harsh tackle on Thiago. In the 49th minute, it was Getafe with the first substitution of Mané off for Lopo.
Barça had a few more relatively good opportunities, such as a 55th minute distance shot by Messi that was picked up by Moyà, but the fact that nothing had yet been converted was somehow anticipated. As stated before, Barça was going about the motions of a regular game, but seemed unconcerned at the lack of goals. This offensive apathy was made even clearer when Thiago was subbed off in favor of Keita in the 65th minute.
It was just two minutes after Barcelona’s first sub that Getafe scored. Valdés let the ball roll out of play and a corner was awarded. Sarabia rocketed in the cross and Valera easily rose above the Barça defense to whip in the header. At last, Barcelona seemed to hear the wakeup call.
After a yellow card was doled out to Diego Castro in the 71st minute for a handball, Barcelona made two back to back changes in the 72nd. A lackluster Maxwell was replaced by Cuenca and the hard working Alexis made way for Pedro. These substitutions were obviously meant to increase the attacking efforts of the now wide awake team.
Another handball was punished by a yellow card, this time committed by Getafe defender Lopo in the 78th. In the last ten minutes, Barça made every attempt to even the score line and salvage the draw. However, an unusual panic and general disarray were apparent. To be fair, Getafe was defending very heavily with almost every blue shirt camped inside the box, but Barça seemed too impatient to work around this typical defensive tactic. Corner after corner was given, all amounting to nothing. Xavi took a free kick but slammed it straight into the wall.
In the 84th minute, with victory within reach, Getafe subbed assist man Sarabia off for Pedro Ríos. With time quickly slipping away, Barça was becoming desperate, and this showed through the various mistakes. In the 87th minute, Miku broke away on a counter attack and would have almost increased Getafe’s lead if he had not dragged the ball wide. The worst transgression occurred a minute later when Busquets was booked for diving in the box, in hopes of securing a last-ditch penalty.
During the three minutes of added time, Barcelona finally realized what it would mean to lose and really turned up the intensity. Messi was prepared to reinforce his savior status and put the ball in the back of the net after an assist from Keita, but was ruled offside. Fearing a late comeback, Getafe whiled away some time by subbing off Diego Castro for Juan Rodríguez. Then, in the very last action of the game, Messi dramatically ricocheted a shot off the post, sealing Barcelona’s first loss of the Liga season as well as the first away game since April 2010 without scoring a goal.
FC Barcelona lost. One could argue that the last time the team lost was also under the same referee, Fernando Teixeira. One could say the team was tired after an exhausting, but triumphant, Champions League group win. One could reason that the team was just, simply, unlucky. Valid arguments, but in the end, the team performed poorly. The players rested on their laurels and did not really feel the urge to win until they went behind with just a few minutes left. Getafe may not have “deserved” the three points either, since Barcelona did have 70% of possession, but the Burger Kings from start to finish wanted to win – and that was the difference.
More importantly than the team’s performance was that of the fans. For those saying that La Liga is over, that six points is an insurmountable gap, that Real Madrid should already begin celebrating, you are wrong. It is only November, and odds like this have been overcome before. Is it a setback? Yes. Does it signal that the team needs to perform better? Of course. But as culés, it is necessary to support the team no matter what, win or lose. It is all right to be disappointed, to be frustrated, but to be defeatist? Unacceptable.
Pull together. We celebrate together. We commiserate together. We are més que un club. Do not ever forget that.
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