Barcelona ground out valuable 3 points away to Real Valladolid on Saturday, winning by a slender 1-0 margin. Barcelona had 10 shots, 5 of them on target and enjoyed 64% possession. They played 590 passes with 85% passing accuracy. It was a closely contested game, with a 57th minute Dembele goal sealing the victory.
Valladolid did have a very late equalizer correctly ruled out by the VAR, as Barcelona held on for their second victory in two games in the La Liga. But the most important talking point from the game was the failure of the Barcelona talisman and skipper, Lionel Messi, to find the score sheet or register an assist.
Messi had a relatively quiet game, a rare off day on the field and failed to register a shot on target. He started as usual and attempted to find his team mates with passes, but a few unfortunate heavy touches let him down. Valladolid players, aware of his qualities, stayed compact and crowded him whenever he had the ball.
The Barcelona Skipper noticed the close attention, and tried to influence the game by dropping a little deeper. He set up Alba with a lovely long ball, but the left back could not capitalize. He then sent Suarez through with a beautifully weighted pass, but the striker could not reach the ball on time.
Messi found Suarez again with a superb lifted ball, but the Barcelona No. 9 was crowded out. Over the game, Messi found Suarez quite a few times, but the desired outcome eluded the striker. Leo then showed some trademark skills in the box and sent a ball across goal begging to be put in but unfortunately there was no one there.
The skipper then ventured on mazy run and was fouled just outside the box. He took the resultant free kick himself, but as it happens on off days, it sailed over the bar.
The second half started with more of the same from the first. Messi found Suarez, who scored but the striker was just offside and the goal was ruled out. The game ultimately ended 1-0, but even though he did not score, there were positives for Messi.
All through the game, Messi showed lovely control, found his team mates regularly and created quite a few chances. Had Suarez and Co. been a little clinical, the Barcelona Skipper could have had an assist to his name. Also, the pitch played spoilsport throughout the game. The pitch was so poor that the grass regularly lifted off the turf.
It hindered the Barcelona game plan and it also restricted Messi’s normal style of play. La Liga President has since confirmed that an action will be taken against the disastrous pitch. It must be noted that Messi has continued his fine form as the new Barcelona captain, as his team showed grit, determination and resolve to earn a valuable away win.
Had one asked for his opinion, the genius would have said that he was delighted with the hard fou away win, because that is the kind of person Messi is, a footballing great who always puts the team ahead of personal glory.
Lionel Messi failing to score and assist against a resolute Valladolid side is only a temporarily glitch in his road to success and glory this season. When you are the best in the world, you are allowed a momentary pause once in a while.
Fasten your seats, ladies and gentlemen, because Leo will make up for his off day and he will be extra motivated when Huesca comes to visit the Nou Camp in a week’s time. He will be back with a bang.