FC Barcelona faced Segunda División leaders Elche CF in Alicante on Friday evening. The youngsters played in the nearly sold out Martínez Valero stadium. Elche will be promoted to the Primera División next season for the first time since 1989, so Eusebio’s side were to face tough opposition. Besides the strength of the opposition, Eusebio also had to start the match without Sergi Roberto and Carles Planas, who picked up injuries against Lugo last week. This resulted in playing time for Portuguese defender Edgar Ié and midfielder Javi Espinosa.
Gaining nine points from their last five games, Barça B is in fine form and the team resided in 8th position in the league with 55 points in 37 matches before the game. While the team has a great amount of goals scored (73, the most in the league), Eusebio’s side also has the most goals conceded in the Segunda División (63).
A great atmosphere provided by the home crowd promised a great evening in Elche as the two teams lined up to start the match.
A timid first 20 minutes passed by as neither of the two teams got chances. Both sides were only able to get close to the opposition goal through free kicks.
In the 23rd minute, Elche was on a counter attack as Edgar Ié gave away a penalty after a challenge on Coro. It appeared that the Portuguese defender hit the ball, but the linesman flagged for a foul straight away. Edu Albacar took the opportunity and scored the first goal of the match by blasting the penalty into the lower right corner.
After taking the lead, Elche was comfortable giving the blaugrana youngsters more control over the game, taking a counter-attacking approach themselves. Still Barça B didn’t manage to create chances as the only capable man up front seemed to be Gerard Deulofeu, who was involved in every play.
The second half started out much livelier than the first, with two chances right off the bat. A low cross by Kiko Femenía found Argentine Sergio Araujo, but a defender blocked the shot resulting in a corner. From the corner Javi Espinosa got a shot off from distance, but again a defender was in the way to prevent the equalizer.
Thirteen minutes after the second half began, Deulofeu found himself in a one-on-one situation with Manu, but the forward got pulled from behind by Damián Suárez. This resulted in a red card for the defender and a free kick on the edge of the box. The free kick struck the wall and the danger was cleared by Elche.
Being a man down, Elche dug themselves in further and opted to go for the counterattack. Barça B gained more possession, which led to a boost in confidence. The Barça youngsters took a more patient approach to the game, which resulted in more chances for the away team.
After a solid build-up near the edge of the Elche box, Rafinha found Javi Espinosa with a lay-off pass. His companion in midfield struck the ball fiercely into the top left corner, with no chance for Manu.
Ten minutes remained as the two teams were on the hunt for three points. Deulofeu, who had a more tactical approach to the game in the second half, almost delivered the points to Barcelona as he put in a low cross after a great move to make space for himself on the right side of the pitch. The low cross managed to sneak through a crowd of players without anyone tapping it in.
Both teams seemed to be content with a draw as the game entered injury time and quietly finished: 1-1.
Goals: Albacar 1-0 (24′), Espinosa 1-1 (79′)
Line-up Elche CF: Manu, Damián, Etxeita, Mantecón, Gil, Fidel, Xumetra (off, 67′), Pelegrín, Generalo, Albacar, Coro (off, 76′)
Bench Elche CF: Rivas, Rivera, Pelavo, Aaron, Powel, Angel (76′), Flaño (67′)
Line-up FC Barcelona B: Masip, Balliu, Lombán, Muniesa (off, 63′) Edgar Ié, Ilie, Espinosa, Rafinha, Deulofeu, Kiko (off, 71), Araujo (off, 67’)
Bench FC Barcelona B: Bañuz, Sergi Gómez, Patric (63’), Agostinho Cá, Gus Ledes, Dongou (67’), Joan Román (71′)
Image credit: fcbarcelona.cat