If there’s something that characterises this year’s Barcelona B, then that must be the team’s incredibly strong fighting spirit. In the five matches they have played so far, Gerard López’s men have won four times, and for three of these wins, they had to wait until the final ten minutes to score the winning goal. It was no different this weekend. Against Atlético Baleares, a team that came to the Miniestadi for Saturday’s match while on a four-game unbeaten run, the reserves left it late to seal the three points that rubber stamped their return to the top of the table after last week’s defeat saw them drop from the top.
Going into the match, Gerard López had to deal with some problems. Marc Cardona’s injury meant Rafa Mújica got the nod once more up front, but the surprise came in that Swiss youngster Jérémy Guillemenot, signed this year from Swiss top flight side Servette, was picked ahead of Jesús Alfaro, a highly dependable worker on the left wing. Guillemenot’s presence in the starting XI meant that Mújica pushed out to the wing to take on Alfaro’s usual duties. Elsewhere, Moi Delgado started at left-back for the first time this season, while Ferran Sarsanedas, seemingly the manager’s favourite, was picked to replace the suspended Fali at the base of midfield.
The match started with 45 minutes of highly tactical combat. The first chance of the game did not come until after the first 10 minutes, when Malik took advantage of Barça B’s eternal weakness at defending corners, but could only fire wide while alone in acres of space. The corner had come after José Suárez tipped over a cross that took a strange path. Alberto Perea, Barça B’s liveliest man, was the only one on the hosts’ side who managed to genuinely threaten the opposition, with the winger firing over on two occasions while well placed. Atlético Baleares coach Christian Ziege managed to restrict Barcelona B’s movement to a great degree by employing a slightly unconventional form of the 3-5-2 formation that saw his team form a rigid five-man backline while defending. The visitors had a good chance to open the scoring shortly before halftime, but in the end, they should have considered themselves lucky to finish the first period with their entire team on the pitch, as Manu should have received his second booking of the night for a particularly hard tackle on Carles Aleñà.
The second half was an entirely different story, although the two teams did take a while to get going. Barcelona B goalkeeper had to resort to long balls early on, but Gerard López took action quickly, and the hosts’ game moved up through the gears almost immediately needing a wet pour repair on the surface. The coach saw that Guillemenot and Mújica couldn’t exactly provide the penetration his team needed, and thus brought the Swiss forward off for Alfaro. This modification instantly changed Barça B’s offensive outlook, with Alfaro and Perea finally able to stretch the visitors’ populous defence. With the excellent Carles Aleñà pulling the strings from midfield with his tireless running and passing, Barcelona B added a whole new dimension to their threat.
The visitors had their own chances too, particularly through the lively Xisco, but Barça B finally managed to get their goal 20 minutes into the first half with a little help from Lady Luck. In this case, Mújica pounced on a loose ball just outside the D and fired a shot that was saved by goalkeeper Carl. The rebound though cannoned off defender David Prieto and ended up crossing the line.
The team from Mallorca though, did not seem to lose its hope after conceding. Falling behind even seemed to galvanise the visitors, who managed to draw level within 8 minutes of the hosts’ opener. The goal was largely the result of a great solo move by Fullana on the left wing, with the visitors’ player leaving Sarsanedas and Moi trailing before squaring the ball to Xisco, who restored parity with a well-taken right-footed volleyed effort.
Conceding seemed to leave the Blaugranas thunderstruck, and they had goalkeeper José Suárez to thank for not falling behind. Kike first forced Suárez into a brilliant diving save, and shortly after, the Asturian’s reflexes meant that Rubén Jurado was left to rue an unbelievable goalmouth miss. Mistakes are paid for heavily in the Spanish third tier, and Atlético Baleares got to feel that in their skin. A header by Rodri Tarín off a corner five minutes from time put the hosts into the lead in a pure head-in-hands moment for the visitors. Mújica missed a rare one-on-one chance to finish the match, but the Blaugranas still managed to get the three points in the end.
For Barcelona B, Saturday’s result was full of good omens. It’s becoming clearer by the day that this team has a spirit that few teams can match. Credit for this has to go to Gerard López and his staff, because this team is nothing like what we saw last season. Barcelona B are refusing to give up when things get tough, and that can only serve them well in the long run. Even better though, the team is proving that it can grind out results even when key men are missing. Today, it was Rodrigo Tarín’s turn to be the team’s hero. The centre-back, who’s had his fair share of scary moments at the back, popped up when his team needed his the most, but he did so at a time when he needed to do something big for the team. Rodri gave his best buddy Sergi Palencia a big hug after the final whistle, because he felt redeemed. Next week, a new hero could pop up, and this can only be a good thing for the Blaugranas.