One point won or two points lost? Barça B could not take full advantage of their home encounter against their closest challengers for top spot, Alcoyano, but in the end the reserves managed to save a point, with Gerard Gumbau coming to the team’s rescue with textbook free kick right at the death. A draw was probably the best Barcelona B could get out of this match given the way things panned out, but the feeling at the end was one of what it could have been had the best Barça B turned up.
Going into the super derby against second-placed Alcoyano, Barcelona B had plenty of support. The club set up an advertising campaign to get the people of Barcelona to the Miniestadi on Saturday, while Gerard Piqué, now essentially a club spokesman, draw attention to the big match on social media. During the week, Gerard López invited his ex-Barcelona teammate Rivaldo to a training session, with the Brazilian legend delivering a free-kick masterclass to the reserves. With Alberto Perea and Dani Romera linked to Segunda División sides during the week, the session probably a clever distractor for the team
In the end though, one of the season’s biggest crowds turned up at the Miniestadi for the Saturday evening kickoff. Gerard went back to basic principles with his lineup, keen to please the culés on the stands. In a pure Barça 4-3-3, Gumbau, Aleñá and Kaptoum formed a midfield trio (in their first time playing together) and Alfaro, Perea and Romera formed the reserve team’s tridente. From the first minute, Barcelona B sought to control a lion’s share of possession, but soon enough, it became clear that possession in its own right could not possibly secure success for the Blaugranas. Before them, after all, was an Alcoyano side that is an expert to the realities of the Segunda B.
Alcoyano’s coach, Toni Seligrat, a veteran of the Spanish lower leagues and a lover of counterattacking football, employed a slightly unusual trick to upset the hosts’ organisation. With Segunda B rules not requiring player names on the back of shirts, Alcoyano’s players came out with numbers different to their usual ones. The forwards donned numbers 4 and 6, while number 9, for example, was for the midfield pivot.
Despite of all of this, Barcelona B built up their play patiently, constantly looking for potential openings in the visitors’ backline. For agonizingly long periods though, there seemed to be no openings at all. The visitors’ narrow 4-4-2 shape and their tight lines choked Barcelona B. The hosts had to wait more than 20 minutes for the for a sight of goal. An ex-Alcoyano player, Jesús Alfaro, created the first opening after a solo run, but had his shot blocked by goalkeeper Miguel Bañuz, who spent three years as Barcelona B’s third choice goalie.
That turned out to be the hosts’ only decent chance of the first half. The Blaugranas grew more and more nervous in their failure to break down their visitors’ backline, and at the same time, Alcoyano’s confidence was on the up. 29 minutes in, Álvaro wasted a really good chance for the team from Alcoy. Nerves were being stretched to breaking point with the game in stop-start mode, and just minutes short of half time, the referee handled a small fight starring Barça B’s Fali very well, avoiding full escalation.
With emotions running high, it was easy to forget one basic thing: Barcelona B had a really patchy first half, one of their worst of the season. Their game lacked fluidity, and their most dangerous players simply failed to step up. On the other hand, Alcoyano achieved their goal and went to the dressing rooms knowing that they had thrown the league leaders well off their best version.
With the restart though, the crowd at the Miniestadi saw a completely different Alcoyano. The visitors came out firing on all cylinders, completely startling the hosts. José Aurelio Suárez showed the finest aspects of his game to keep out Alcoyano’s first two chances. He first saved from point blank range, and then parried away a bicycle kick by striker David Torres. It would however be a third time lucky for the visitors, with Torres scoring from a free kick delivered from the flank. The goal was a lot like the one which condemned the Blaugranas to defeat last week at Villarreal, but it seems that a weakness at defending set pieces has been firmly imprinted in the team’s DNA.
Gerard saw his team devoid of ideas, and reacted by bringing on Xemi and Mujica for Borja López and Kaptoum, respectively. The substitutions meant that the Blaugranas were essentially resorted to an adventurous 3-3-5 formation with two centre forwards, which inevitably meant that risks had to be taken. As Barcelona B piled men forward in search of an equaliser, Alcoyano employed a series of legitimate, as well as illegitimate methods to halt the hosts’ resurgence. The result? A hectic final 15 minutes featuring a roller coaster of emotions
With seven minutes remaining on the clock, a textbook counter by Alcoyano left substitute Barreda alone in acres of space. The forward could only produce a tame finish. That proved to be a turning point in the end. In a rare moment of freedom, Carles Aleñá managed to thread a ball through to Rafa Mújica on the edge of the box. The forward was felled by a defender and the referee correctly awarded a free kick to Barcelona B.
Gerard Gumbau, who had spent most time with Rivaldo practising free kicks, stepped up for the chance. The former Girona man, who has not constantly featured in Gerard’s plans this season, executed the kick perfectly. A piledriver of immense power whizzed past Bañuz and into the top corner. Barça B were finally level. Their lead was safe.
The referee’s final whistle found Barcelona B celebrating a point that they earned after what was perhaps their hardest match in the league season. Against Alcoyano, Barcelona B did not play well. They could have lost, although they did not deserve to. In the end they didn’t lose though, and that’s all that matters, as Gerard López correctly said post-match. The Blaugranas still have a two-point lead over Alcoyano, and fortunately, a string of results this weekend meant that no other direct rival came any closer. Barcelona B seem to have got the best Gumbau back, and they are expecting more key men to return. If they can hold it together, the playoff place will be theirs.
Segunda B, Group 3, Round 23
Barça B 1-1 Alcoyano
Suárez; Palencia, Fali, Borja López (Xemi, 61′), Moisés; Gumbau, Aleñá, Kaptoum (Mujica, 61′); Alfaro, Dani Romera y Perea (Carbonell, 84′)
Bañuz; Álvaro, Fuentes, Tomás Ruso, Navarro; Gato, Fran Miranda, Jony, Jose (López Silva, 73′); Mariano (Barreda, 78′) y David Torres.
0-1: 52’ David Torres, 1-1: 88’ Gumbau
Referee: Muñoz Piedra (Madrid). Yellows: Alfaro (38′), Moisés (52′), Borja López (59′), Aleñá (66′), Gumbau (66′), Fali (92’) – Tomás Ruso (35 ‘), David Torres (45′), Jony (66′), Fran Miranda (70′), Navarro (89′) and López Silva (92’).