Over the past month or so, Barcelona B have installed themselves as favourites for one of the promotion playoff spots in Group 3 of the Segunda División B. The Blaugranas have been excellent value for the lead, but as all teams, they too can have days off. Against Badalona on Saturday, the stars seemed to conspire against Gerard López’s team. In front of the biggest crowd the Miniestadi has seen this season, the reserves huffed and puffed, but all they managed in the end was to lose 3-1 after going down 2-0 at halftime. The golden Segunda B rule was at work again: fail your chances and you shall be punished.
In the run-up to the match against Badalona, Gerard López got some good and some bad news. The good news was that due to the international break, two of his most consistent defenders, Marlon Santos and Nili Perdomo, were free from any first team duties and thus available to join the reserves for the whole week. The bad news though had to do with another defender, Rodrigo Tarín, with whom Marlon was starting to build a really promising partnership at the heart of defence. The 20-year-old Masia graduate, who was injured during last week’s match at Eldense, was diagnosed with a complete cruciate ligament rupture in his right knee, and is now set for a 6-to-8-month spell on the sidelines.
With Tarín’s season as good as finished, his teammates, led by his best friend and team captain Sergi Palencia, wanted to cheer him up. Before kickoff, the whole squad, wearing T-shirts with the message “Stay strong Rodri” waited for Tarín to hop onto the pitch on his crutches and then gave him a standing ovation with the aid of 2000 spectators at the Miniestadi. After this nice gesture, the crowd really seemed galvanised and ready to get behind the team for 90 minutes.
The match began with both teams trying to assert their dominance, but after a rather quiet initial spell, it soon became clear that the hosts would take initiative throughout the match. Dani Romera was the first to threaten the goal defended by Badalona’s 40-year-old keeper Morales. The forward sent a header inches wide of the post. A little later, Marc Cardona failed to pounce on a mistake by the defenders after Nili’s inviting cross from the right. The former Las Palmas right-back, who is becoming more of a right winger for the reserves, was also the man behind Dani Romera’s second chance. From his cross, the Almería native masterfully turned but his acrobatic volley narrowly missed the goal.
With Barcelona B failing to score from a catalogue of chances, Badalona showed their hosts how to be 100% efficient. From two proper attacks in the first half, the visitors got two goals and went to the dressing rooms with a two-goal lead in hand. Moroccan striker Moha Ezzarfani was the star of the show. He first assisted Iván Agudo for the opener, in a play that Marlon was at fault by failing to adequately close the Badalona man down. Four minutes later, he took matters in his own hands, taking advantage of Marlon bad positioning to fire a rocket into the bottom corner from 30 yards out. From nowhere, and without being superior to Barcelona B, Badalona got a two-goal lead.
After the restart, Gerard López gave a sample of his boldness, with the coach pulling all the stops in search of a comeback. Centre-back José Antonio Martínez came off for Alberto Perea, and Barça B abandoned their favourite 4-3-3 shape for a clearly adventurous 4-2-4. It was perhaps a step too far from the coach, who left the team with just two rather ‘soft’ midfielders in Gerard Gumbau and Álex Carbonell. He was made to pay dearly for making a decision to risk so early in the match, as Badalona got their third of the match before the hour mark. From a corner, Toni Lao headed home at ease, free from any marking at the far post.
From that point onwards, the match inevitably became a monologue for the hosts. The Blaugranas huffed and puffed, created eight chances for goal, but they could only convert only one of them into a goal. Perea, Cardona, Carbonell, Gumbau and even defender Palencia had goal chances after Badalona’s third, but Barcelona’s lack of goalscoring prowess on the night was evident. Dani Romera finally pulled one back for the hosts with a volleyed effort five minutes from time, but it was more of a case of too little, too late for Barça B. Badalona took all three points and kept up their undefeated streak, which goes back to the beginning of the season.
Of course, there is no shame in losing to a fellow promotion contender, even if that happens when you are playing at home. Barcelona B would have been certain of retaining top spot regardless of Alcoyano’s result (the team from Alcoy were provisional leaders midway being two goals up at the time of writing) with a win, but the defeat doesn’t really change much. The Blaugranas are still very much in the mix for top spot.
The most important thing now is an immediate reaction to defeat. Barcelona went into the Badalona match on the back of a four game winning run, and it is very important for them to return to winning ways. When they last had a defeat ending a long winning spell, it took them over a month to rediscover their best form. The circumstances now are different of course. Gerard López has two top class forwards at his disposal, and they are both in form. On top of that, his team has the right spirit. One doesn’t have to go further than Marlon, who yesterday turned his post-match comments into a public apology for his mistakes, to understand that this year’s Barça B squad is full of individuals who feel for the team cause. It is up to this team to make this weekend’s defeat nothing more than a small blip.