26th August, 2018
On a Saturday when many top teams in Europe struggled against lesser placed ones (ask Manchester City, Liverpool and Atletico Madrid), Barcelona was not spared the tough challenge and had to really fight their way to a slim 1-0 win over a stubborn Real Valladolid on Saturday to make it two victories from two matches so far played in the #LaLiga.
Ousman Dembele had to come to the rescue with Lionel Messi having a fairly quiet game by his own standards. But for the VAR technology, it could have bee worse for Barca as Valladolid thought they had equalised through Keko in second-half stoppage time.
It was not just Messi that was not at his best in this game as the Barca team put up an unconvincing display of football, something very unusual with them. It was as if the team ate too much before the game and were suffering from indigestion.
With Philippe Coutinho recalled to the starting line-up, the team was expected to fully control the midfield but somehow struggled for rhythm in the first half. The chances they managed to create were all wasted with Dembele the chief culprit as he wasted a particular fine cushioned pass from Lionel Messi.
Even at that, the young striker remained the most threatening of the Barcelona forwards and it was really not much of a surprise when he got the solitary strike of the match as he sent a well controlled volley past former Barca goalkeeper Jordi Masip after a header down from Sergi Roberto in the 57th minute.
Luis Suarez reminded everyone that he is also on the pitch as he scored what he felt was a legitimate goal but was disallowed for offside.
It was then Valladolid’s turn to be denied a goal through a VAR decision with virtually the last kick of the game as Keko was denied a goal.
On the whole, Barca never at any stage of game looked real threatened to lose the game but they were not as convincing as they usually are. The midfield did show some improvement when measured against their performance last week but can surely do better.
Sergi Roberto was a positive factor for Barca in this game as he was very solid at the right-back position. Even when he had plenty of work to do as Valladolid concentrated their attacks down their left, the player rarely put a foot wrong and even went on to also bag the assist for the winner.
Nelson Semedo surely has reasons to be worried as he slides down the pecking order for that position.