UD Ibiza hosted Barcelona in the Copa del Rey in what was a monumental occasion for the Segunda B side. Since the club's inception in 2015, the club from the Balaeric Islands have risen through the ranks to the 3rd division, where they are currently occupying 3rd position in Segunda B Group 1.
Ibiza did their reputation no harm but the home side were dealt a killer blow in stoppage time, as an Antoine Griezmann double gave the visitors a narrow 2-1 victory.
Quique Setien's Barcelona tenure got off to a solid start, as the Catalan giants registered a well deserved 1-0 victory over Granada in the weekend and the 61-year-old made it two wins in as many games since replacing Ernesto Valverde in the managerial hot seat. Having rested a handful of big guns, including Samuel Umtiti, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Lionel Messi amongst others, the Spanish tactician opted to name a squad with a combination of youth and experience.
The likes of Ansu Fati, Riqui Puig and Carles Perez were handed starts but were accompanied by Gerard Pique, Ivan Rakitic and Antoine Griezmann, as Barcelona looked to take a major step towards winning the Copa del Rey for the 5th time in 6 years.
The two clubs are worlds apart in terms of stature but on the night, the minnows went toe to toe with the reigning LaLiga champions, as they tore up the script and raced to a shock lead in the opening exchanges. Rai Nascimento's brilliant run and cross from the left flank was brilliantly latched onto by Javi Perez, who's shot landed up in the back of the net via a deflection from Gerard Pique.
Sensationally, Barcelona didn't get a stronghold of the game in the first half against a third division side, as they failed to create any clear cut chances. Additionally, the Catalan giants also failed to register a single shot on goal despite having 84% possession before the interval, as Ibiza goalkeeper German Parreno was largely a spectator.
With time running out to restore parity, Setien made two changes after the interval, as Perez and Puig were substituted in favour of Jordi Alba and Arthur Melo. Blaugrana piled on the pressure in the second half and were finally rewarded for their efforts, as Griezmann calmly slotted home after a brilliant through ball from Frenkie de Jong for the game's equalizer.
The World Cup winner put the seal on a fine second-half performance with a well-taken winner in stoppage time after being played through by substitute Alba. Ibiza were delivered a hammer blow in stoppage time but can take heart from their efforts, as they gave Barcelona a run for their money and came within one minute of forcing extra time.
As the reigning La Liga champions registered a last-gasp victory, let's look at three talking points from the game.
#3 Griezmann spares Barca blushes in Messi's absence
With Lionel Messi rested, the onus was on Antoine Griezmann to deliver as he spearheaded a relatively inexperienced attack alongside Carles Perez and Ansu Fati, and the Frenchman delivered to spare Barcelona's blushes. The La Liga looked toothless in front of goal in the absence of their talisman and goalscoring chances were at a premium, as the minnows defied the odds and put up a valiant fight.
When the game was crying out for inspiration from one of the senior players, Griezmann stepped up and produced the goods for his team as his second-half double inspired them to a hard-fought 2-1 victory. With two well-taken finishes with his preferred left foot, the former Atletico Madrid man took his tally up to 11 goals and 4 assists in all competitions this season and was the saviour on the night, as Ibiza were put to the sword in gut-wrenching circumstances.
#2 Blaugrana looked sloppy on the ball
With seasoned pros like Ivan Rakitic and Frenkie de Jong stationed in the heart of midfield, alongside the highly-rated Riqui Puig, Barcelona were expected to control the game in the centre of the park but that wasn't to be the case on the night. The away side, despite having the lions share of the ball, were run ragged by the Ibiza midfield, as they lacked the usual incision and poise you'd expect from a Barcelona side.
Despite registering an assist, De Jong did not have the best outing after returning from suspension and Rakitic, who has so often been slated for his subpar performances this season, was once again lacklustre on the night against a team from the third tier of Spanish football.
The problem extended well beyond the midfield, as the likes of Clement Lenglet and Junior Firpo and Carles Perez also failed to exert their influence in the game. In stark contrast to their encounter against Granada, where the Catalan giants completed 91% of 1002 attempted passes, they only managed to tally 718 passes with an accuracy of 88%.
While these stats are by no means underwhelming on face value, it is important to understand that Barcelona faced a side from the Segunda B and failed to beat them convincingly, as their drop of in quality from their previous encounter was brought to the forefront.
#1 Barcelona's youngsters are a work in progress
Barcelona's famed La Masia academy is renowned for producing some of the most exciting players in world football but in recent years, one could argue that their fame has faded, as a handful of players have failed to make the grade at the club. However, there is a sense of cautious optimism amongst the Blaugrana faithful with the current crop of youngsters, as the likes of Riqui Puig, Ansu Fati and Carles Alena and Carles Perez are held in such high regard.
As the young guns were given the opportunity to make their presence felt, it wouldn't be going too far by saying that they were given a reality check of sorts. While its still early doors, the academy graduates were given a taste of top-flight football and were made to work their socks off against a side from the third tier.
While Carles Perez failed to make an impression on the night, Riqui Puig found himself ball watching for the opening goal of the game and Ansu Fati, despite an energetic performance, found himself on the floor multiple times as the Ibiza defenders manhandled him on occasions.
While there remains an air of inevitability around the fact that the trio will go on to have a bright future in the top flight, it is important to realize that they are still very much a work in progress and the club need to tread carefully with them to further their development.Published 23 Jan 2020, 02:31 IST