In football, it often beneficial to get through a rough patch. It was only two weeks ago when Barcelona B were a team on a three-match winless run. Now leading the league, the team led by Gerard López is on a three-match undefeated run, during which it has not conceded a single goal. In their first ever win against Llagostera, which came on Saturday, the reserves showed that they know how to win, even when key men are missing.
Barcelona B had to go Palamòs to face Llagostera without Nili, Marlon or Aleñà, all of whom were called up for the first team match against Granada. Any coach would start having headaches in the face of such important absences, even when his top scorer returns to the match squad after a long injury layoff. Gerard López kept his cool though. As a tactician who has taken massive leaps in terms of maturity, the Catalan stood by his most trusted lieutenants. He once again handed Carbonell, Sarsanedas and Gumbau starts in midfield, despite more illustrious names being available, and judging from the end result, his choice worked.
The match started with both teams trying to assert their dominance, although it was Barcelona B who tried to take more initiative with possession. The visitors early threat came through Dani Romera, who scored a brace last week. The forward tried to divert a well-placed corner by Alberto Perea, but only managed to hit the side netting. The hosts were obviously not carried away by the fast tempo Barcelona B tried to impose on the match, and they seemed to even fancy their chances on the break. in such a situation, they produced their first chance, with Valentín unsuccessfully trying to catch José Suárez with a near post header.
With the passage of time, the match settled into a low thrill affair with few things to look out for at either end. The midfield battle was equally contested by both sides, with a number of clashes for the ball resulting in some hard challenges. In one of those occasions, the referee had to pause game for a couple of minutes when Sergi Palencia got a nasty hit in a clash of heads with Manel.
As the game approached the final 15 minutes of the first half, things seemed to liven up. Barcelona B wasted their best chance of the first period when Alberto Perea headed just wide from a cross by Alfaro. Llagostera’s response was immediate, with Manel taking an assist from Fernández and trying a shot, only to see Martínez produce an excellently timed block. Shortly after, Barça B captain Sergi Palencia tested keeper Moragón with a second time volley from just outside the box. The final spell was indeed full of thrills: Llagostera had a penalty appeal turned down after some wonderful interplay between Robert, Rubén and Manel. Down the other end, Barcelona B hit the post with Alberto Perea. Nonetheless, the two teams left the pitch for the break with the scores tied at 0-0.
The Blaugranas started the second half strongly and decisively. Romera came inches from connecting with a very inviting cross by Alfaro, but one could sense a goal coming for the visitors. The goal did come, and it was Álex Carbonell, of all people, who got it. The former Cornellà academy player took a full first volley when the ball was left loose in the box aftera corner and gave his team the lead ten minutes into the second half. With the lead in their hands, the Blaugranas set about consolidation. Gerard’s made two changes in quick succession. Fali, the epitome of hard tackling sweeper, came on for goalscorer Carbonell, while the team’s top scorer Marc Cardona replaced Perea.
On 73 mintues, Sarsanedas seemed to twist his ankle and had to be replaced by Xemi, seemingly ruining Gerard’s tactical plan for seeing out the match. The hosts huffed and puffed as they poured men forward, but the Blaugranas, more resolute than ever in defence, held firm. On the counter, Jesús Alfaro tried to double his team’s advantage after receiving Dani Romera’s assist, but Moragón produced a top notch save to keep him out.
The direction the game seemed to be going in, called for a second Barça B goal. Others may have been failing in front of goal, but not Marc Cardona. The reserve team’s top scorer, 20 minutes into his return from a 2-month injury layoff, made it 2-0 to the visitors with his first touch. Although understandably somewhat short of match fitness, Cardona proved in an emphatic way that he is a fox in the box. The tireless Sergi Palencia whipped in a cross from the right, and there was Cardona to drive the ball home with a deft flick. In fact the goal had echoes of Lionel Messi’s second at the Santiago Bernabéu in the 2011 Champions League semi-final. Anyway, Cardona didn’t seem to care too much. His goal closed the scoring at 0-2, a score which gave his team not only the three points, but also the lead in Group 3.
Barcelona returned home from the short trip to Palamòs feeling fulfilled. As Gerard López very correctly put in front of the media, the win leaves the reserves with a sweet taste, and is genuinely one of those matches which leaves you with a huge feeling of satisfaction. The Blaugranas took more than three points from their visit to the Costa Brava. They silenced those critics who said that the team’s defence is a hopeless case. Even without Marlon, the team kept a third consecutive clean sheet.
The big smiles though come as a result of the things brewing up front. The league best front line, has just welcomed back its top scorer. a player whose goalscoring record has left him trailing the league’s top scorer by a single goal despite spending 2 months on the sidelines. Let’s also not forget about Dani Romera, who also returned from his injury a couple of weeks ago. And then there’s also Rafa Mújica, who’s just turned 18 but has a huge future ahead. Barcelona B have a strike force that can only be feared by opponents. With a backline that shows consistent improvement every week, the reserves an on a promotion course. It’s up to them to dispel the final doubts when second placed Valencia Mestalla visit the Miniestadi on Wednesday.