Good things can’t last forever. Barcelona B’s winning run in the Spanish third tier came to an end on Sunday at El Collao, against a combative Alcoyano side that will certainly rival the Blaugranas for promotion. Gerard López did say last week that the match against Alcoyano would be war; the coach was proved right as the game was intensely contested and, above all, contained lots of controversy. The Blaugranas almost completed a miraculous comeback after coming back from 2-0 down, but this time round, they were defeated in the same way that the won last week, thanks to a late goal scored by the hosts.
Going into the Alcoyano match, Gerard López didn’t have many issues to deal with, but the one that he did have, was enough to give him headaches. Marc Cardona, the team’s top scorer with 5 goals, was sidelined for 6-8 weeks due to a knee injury he suffered last week against Villarreal B. Gerard, one way or another, had to replace his top gun, drawing from a limited pool of fit strikers. In the end, he opted for Rafa Mújica, who is yet to turn 18. The Canary Islander, although hugely talented, is a different kind of player to Cardona, and thus couldn’t offer the same sort of presence up front.
Despite of this though, Barcelona B started brightly. In fact, they imposed themselves on the game from the word go, attacking purposefully and missing some decent chances inside the first 15 minutes. Mújica came very close to scoring after a great solo move took him past his marker, but the youngster could only shoot wide of the post, while a couple of minutes later, fullback Nili, who scored last week against Villarreal, sent a shot onto the crossbar.
While everybody seemed to agree that a Barça B goal was imminent, two minutes of pure controversy completely changed the dynamics of the match. On 17 minutes, referee Salvador Lax Franco, whose house is just an hour’s drive from Alcoy, according to Catalan newspaper sport, was at the centre of the controversy. The match official pointed straight to the spot when Xemi fouled an Alcoyano player on the edge of the box, even though it seemed crystal clear that the offence had taken place outside the box. The reserves surrounded Lax Franco to protest the decision, but the referee from Murcia was having none of it. Fali, who never shies away from telling referees what he thinks, was booked in the process. Alcoyano’s made no mistake from the penalty spot and gave the hosts a thoroughly undeserved lead.
Things were about to get worse for Barça B though. On 19 minutes, Fali received a rather strict second yellow for a foul in the middle of the park, and Barça B were forced to see out the remaining 70 minutes of the match with a man down. The rest of the first half didn’t yield any significant events and the teams went to the dressing rooms with the hosts holding a one-goal lead and a numerical advantage.
The beginning of the second half saw Gerard López employ some bold measures in order to instigate a comeback. The coach brought on Ignacio Abeledo for his debut, with the former Betis man replacing Xemi. Gerard also pushed Nili into midfield, which meant that the visitors were effectively playing with three at the back. Ten minutes into the second half though, the hosts doubled their lead through Jony’s second of the night, and Barça B saw their quest for three points turn into mission impossible.
The Blaugranas never gave up though. Mújica, Aleñà and Nili all had good chances to pull one back. Barça B’s spirit, a major gain for the team this year, meant that one couldn’t directly tell that El Collao was playing host to a 11 vs 10 match. Finally, Barcelona B’s insistence yielded a much needed goal, with defender Miranda diverting a corner booted in by Wilfrid Kaptoum into his own net on 79 minutes. The goal gave the visitors wings, and six minutes later, Swiss forward Jeremy Guillemenot, took advantage of Mújica’s assist to head home on his debut.
Guillemenot’s goal gave the visitors hope that an epic comeback would be possible, but Gato had other ideas. Four minutes from time, The Alcoyano midfielder picked up the ball 40 metres from the edge of the Barça B goal, and after skipping past lots of tired bodies in Blaugrana, fired a shot past a helpless José Suárez to send El Collao into delirium.
In the end, it wasn’t meant to be for Gerard’s men. The reserves put in a colossal effort to equalise after going 2-0 down, and the fact that they lost in the end should take nothing away from the fact that the team showed real character in the 70 minutes they had to play with a man down.
The Blaugranas are now in second place, just a point off leaders Ebro, and the Alcoyano defeat should take nothing away from their momentum. At this stage, it is important that the team is playing well and contesting matches until the referee’s final whistle. With Dani Romera set to return in the next week or so, the reserves should have enough to return to winning ways next week and prove that the Alcoyano match was just an accident.