Barcelona B could not stay away from the taste of victory for too long. After two consecutive draws against Prat and Espanyol B, Barcelona B finished the first round of league action and 2016 with a dramatic win away at CD Ebro. The team from Zaragoza pushed the Blaugranas all the way, but a stellar performance from Jesús Alfaro ensured that the team led by Gerard López held on to top spot to finish the year as winter champions.
With key players missing, Barcelona B coach did have to come up with an alternative formation. With Carles Aleñá, Wilfrid Kaptoum and Marc Cardona all injured, the coach resorted to a rather unusual 4-4-2 shape with Alfaro and Romera forming a forward duo we are very unlikely to see again this year.
Even so, Gerard’s men started the match strongly, with Dani Romera getting behind the game’s first chance. The striker did put the ball past the hosts’ keeper Montoya, but the linesman’s flag incorrectly went up for offside. With Barça B failing to make the most of their early dominance, CD Ebro managed to balance things out and started trying to make their aerial superiority count. Their attempts however came to nothing though, as Jesús Alfaro, who yesterday played his best game for Barça B thus far, opened the scoring with a well taken goal. From the edge of the box, the Andalusian’s left foot fired into the bottom corner and put his team ahead.
After Barcelona B’s opener, the hosts intensified their search for an equaliser with long balls into the box, but things threatened to get out of hand with regards to aggression, as Gabarre dangerously elbowed Borja López in an aerial battle. Gabarre could have easily been sent off but escaped with just a yellow, and Ebro continued to search for a headed equaliser. The team that went closer to scoring before halftime was Barça B though, with Dani Romera drawing a top class save from Montoya just minutes before the final whistle for the first half.
With the restart, the tide seemed to turn. Barcelona B seemed content to leave the ball to the hosts, who in turn piled men forward in search of an equaliser. The visitors clearly wanted to take a conservative approach, creating chances just from long-distance efforts or from corners. The hosts, on their part, continued playing crosses into the box to take advantage of their big men, and on 72 minutes, De La Cruz came inches within beating José Aurelio Suárez with a header from point-blank range. Gerard López sought to inject more freshness into his team by withdrawing a frustrated Romera for Rafa Mújica.
Things didn’t work out exactly as the coach wanted though, and Barça B were being pegged back more and more by the minute. On 79 minutes, another cross into the box allowed Gabarre to finish at ease with Barcelona B defenders defending childishly by being mere spectators during the whole play. It was however, a wholly deserved equaliser for CD Ebro.
With the match back on level terms, it was the visitors’ turn to pile men forward. Gerard withdrew Gumbau for the more creative Álex Carbonell and Blaugranas camped in the opposition’s half in search of a late winner. They managed to get it with just minutes to spare in the most sensational of ways. Substitute Mújica controlled a seemingly lost ball in the box and lobbed blindly towards the far post, where Jesús Alfaro, who had ghosted into position, fired a brilliantly taken first-time volley into the bottom corner to put Barça B back into the lead.
There was still time for one last scare though. In the fifth and last minute of added time , the ball emerged from a swath of players in the visitors’ box and ended up in the net, but luckily for Barcelona B, an intervening Ebro player was judged to be offside . With the offside call also came the final whistle, which prompted the visitors to go into celebration mode, as Alcoyano’s home draw against Baleares meant they were ‘crowned’ winter champions.
Of course, the title of winter champions means nothing, but for a team that seemed lost in space just a year ago, it is a clear sign of progress. Barcelona B have been the best side in the Segunda B during the first 4 months of matches, and one can easily suggest that the best could be yet to come. Gerard López will get back the services of valuable players when 2017 rolls along, and the team will hopefully be galvanised as it heads towards the business end of the season.
For Barcelona B, the big ask right now is to keep it together until the real test begins. Even if the Blaugranas top their Group, the playoffs will need them to go through one of the most nerve wracking promotion campaigns that exists in football today, the Segunda B playoffs. For now, Barcelona B have just got to keep doing what they have been doing so well since the start of the season.
CD Ebro, 1
Barça B, 2
CD Ebro: Montoya, Cristian (Alain Barron, min 70), Eneko, Maureta, Alfonso, Forte, Valero (Kevin Lacruz, min 68), Moustapha, Gabarre, Victor Bravo (Txema Pan, min 68) and Sergio.
Barça B: Suárez, Palencia, Moisés, Fali, López, Martínez, Xemi, Sarsanedas, Romera (Mujica, min 75), Gumbau (Àlex Carbonell, min 85) and Alfaro (Marlon Santos, min 90).
Goals: 0-1 Jesús Alfaro, min 24; 1-1 Gabarre, min 78; 1-2 Jesús Alfaro, min 89.
Referee: Montes Garcia-Navas. He booked Gabarre (min 35), Gerard Gumbau (min 43), Sergi Palencia (min 45), de la Cruz (min 87), Mujica (min 94) and Sergio Martínez (min 94).