Defeats are, just like wins, a part of the beautiful game. They all hurt, but some defeats hurt harder than others. Barça B suffered a defeat of the painful type this weekend, succumbing to their first home defeat of the season against Catalan neighbours Cornellà. Gerard López’s men controlled the match from start to finish, and should have really clinched the three points from the first 45 minutes of the game. A less intense second half though, coupled with a hotly contested decision by the referee to award the visitors a penalty five minutes from time meant the hosts were left empty-handed.
Barcelona B took to the pitch of the Miniestadi on Saturday afternoon in no mood for jokes. With Gerard López picking Álex Carbonell over the slightly more defensive Ferran Sarsanedas, the intention for his team to take the initiative was crystal clear. And indeed, so it happened. The Blaugranas controlled a lion’s share of possession and passed the ball around with purpose, aiming to drill through the visitors’ defence. On their part, Cornellà’s players seemed rather unable to match their hosts’ tempo, and took on a passive role.
The first massive chance came from a combination of headers by Barcelona B’s centre-backs, Marlon Santos and José Antonio Martínez, who made his B team debut on Saturday. The Brazilian set up the former Sevilla Atlético man at the back post, but the Martínez could send a free header onto the post from 4 yards. Just minutes later, Jesús Alfaro, who had to be taken off injured before the end of the first half, sent a shot into row Z from a privileged position inside the box. Nili, whose attacking forays are becoming more and more important, also had his chance but the low cross-shot he attempted was saved well by Marcos.
Barça B clearly dominated Cornellà in the first half, and the visitors were left with little choice but to resort to some hard tackling in an attempt to disperse the hosts’ impetus. Perea was a frequent victim of shirt tugs and kicks, and in general, several promising attacks by the hosts were destroyed by some ruthless defending by the visitors. They did achieve their goal though; the referee blew his whistle for the last time in the first half with the score at nil-nil.
Cornellà’s job was just half done though; for picking up points at the Miniestadi has proved a more than complicated task for many teams this season. The visitors obviously knew this, and after the restart they pushed on in search of an opener. Abraham sent a shot just over, while Suárez had to spare Martínez’s blushes after the defender inexplicably gave the ball away. Cornellà had an even greater chance later on though, with Puerto failing to connect with Abraham’s cross for a couple of inches.
The hosts still had lots of possession, but their possession clearly lacked the fluidity and purpose of their first half display. With two lines of four, the visitors stifled the hosts’ link-ups in midfield, and most crucially, cut all supply lines to Barça B’s puppet master Carles Aleñà. Gerard reacted by bringing on Sarsanedas and Kaptoum in an attempt to inject fresh ideas into his midfield, but the hosts rapid transitions still caused problems for his team. Ñoño, whose careful defensive display kept Nili’s runs at check throughout the game, drew a top drawer save from José Aurelio Suárez, with the Gijón native also saving from Borja late on.
Despite of all of the visitors’ second half chances, the scoring was opened from the spot. The decision to award Cornellà a penalty was a hotly contested one, as the moment before Jose Antonio Martínez foolishly stretched his arm to stop the ball, the ball seemed to clearly run out of play. Martínez’s clear intention to handle the ball begged the question: did the centre-back think that the referee would have signalled a goal kick? Even so, the harm had already been done. Enric stepped up on 85 minutes and made no mistake to fire past José Suárez to put his team into the lead.
Barcelona B didn’t give up after conceding, and the Blaugranas can consider themselves a bit unlucky for how the final minutes panned out. A really clumsy kick into the face of Marlon should have seen the hosts get a penalty, but the referee only awarded an indirect free kick. Perea fired against the wall, and Barcelona B succumbed to their first home defeat in frustration.
On Saturday, Barcelona B lacked the killer instinct that has given them so many wins this season. They were uncharacteristically wasteful when they were on top (during the first half), and then failed to keep up the tempo during the second period. Little harm done though, as there are still 31 games left to play. The team still sits atop of the table (with Valencia) Mestalla and has the most wins of all teams in the group. Defensive improvement is still to come, but Marlon coming into the picture should work in the team’s favour. With Dani Romera getting his first minutes on Saturday after recovering from meniscus surgery, the team will hope that the sharpness up front will return.