Barcelona’s ineffective play was exposed during the encounter against Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Once again, their fruitless liquid-taca passing game showed that possession is a mirage that can leave fans disappointed. Xavi’s men entered the pitch with elimination already on their scorecard, given the 4-0 win Inter Milan had picked up over the modest Viktoria Plzeň of the Czech Republic.
Barcelona’s Pre-Match Jitters
Xavi and his players met at Camp Nou earlier that day to watch a game that would eventually sentence their elimination. Only two unlikely events could change that looming reality – Viktoria needed to defeat Inter Milan, and Barcelona had to overcome a 0-5 game deficit against Bayern Munich. A miracle was in order, but for miracles to occur, belief is required.
From the first few minutes, Bayern Munich showed that they meant business. In a furious counterattack, Sadio Mane grabbed the ball at the midfield line. Hector Bellerin tried to stop him, but the Senegal international fended him off and chipped the ball past Ter Stegen. The Bavarians were 1-0 after only ten minutes.
Bayern Is a Well-Oiled Machine
What happened in the 30th minute illustrates Barcelona’s night and their current Champions League campaign. Barca led a seven-man charge into Bayern territory. Only defenders Marcos Alonso, Alejandro Balde, and Jules Koundé were around the midfield line to contain Mane and Choupo Moting. Midfielder Jamal Musiala won the ball back for Bayern, got passed Alonso, and found a clear path forward. With one fewer Barcelona defender, Musiala passed the ball to Serge Gnabry, who linked up with Moting and Mane in a dizzying trident. The Bayern men were 3-2 up against Balde and Koundé, who tried to retreat but could not contain Gnabry and his excellent pass to Moting. The Cameroonians easily beat Ter Stegen with a low shot. Bayern Munich 2-0.
The VAR cleared up an alleged penalty by Matthijs de Ligt against Robert Lewandowski in the 43rd minute. After a quick review, English referee Anthony Taylor ruled that the Dutch defender reached the ball before Lewandowski. Boos came down from the stands in response to the referee’s decision. Barcelona hit the half-time down two goals and struck with one disheartening referee call.
In the 55th minute, Gnabry received an excellent long pass from Joshua Kimmich, lowered and controlled with his right foot, got passed Balde, and placed a superb left-foot curler just inside Marc-Andre Ter Stegen’s far post. In one of those head-scratching calls, referee Taylor ruled that Gnabry was in an off-side position when he received the ball from Kimmich. The VAR image left us all with more questions than answers.
The Barca Bench Did Not Offer Answers
The clock was ticking, and things looked grim for the home side. The Blaugrana were not only losing by two goals but failed to generate offensive plays. They could not break into the final third and had zero shots on target. Xavi finally decided to adjust his pieces in the 58th minute and sent on Ferrán Torres for Sergio Busquets, putting an extra man in attack. Pedri was replaced by Rafinha. Soon after, Eric García and Ansu Fati came on for Koundé and Ousmane Dembelé, respectively. It was not until the 67th minute that Barcelona created a good chance. Ansu Fati managed to break through the German defense, got passed two defenders, and fired a shot five yards wide of Ulreich’s near post.
The substitutions yielded few results, and Bayern controlled the game comfortably. They had good scoring chances through Gnabry and Mane. The latter play resulted in a corner kick from Kimmich. The German midfielder served long for Gnabry, whose imperfect volley found Benjamin Pavard free to beat Ter Stegen in the 93rd minute.
Barcelona’s Ineffective Play Exposed
The look on Xavi’s and the Cules’ faces say it all after the 0-3 defeat.
Overall, Barcelona had nine attempts at goal. Unfortunately, none of them were on target. Keeper Ulreich was a mere spectator, although Barcelona had 58% ball possession. Barcelona made A-list signings at the start, including Robert Lewandowski, Rafinha, and Koundé.
Disappointingly, they will have to settle for the second tier of European football, The Europa League, yet again.