Two more games in Madrid as I head back to Butarque for a huge La Liga clash and then tick off another new ground in the Tercera.
Bottom against top. On paper this should have been a formality for Barça since Leganés had only managed one win all season and even though it’s still early in the season, already look doomed to a return to the Segunda.
But last season, albeit earlier in the campaign, the two sides went into this fixture in the same situations and Lega recorded a historic victory which kick-started their season. Could history repeat itself? Well when Youssef En-Nesyri, scorer of the winning goal in last season’s fixture, fired los pepineros in front with a stunning strike after — minutes, it seemed the shock might be on.
Barça have been poor on their travels this season, already losing at Athletic, Granada and Levante and in the opening half hour they looked off the pace, hamstrung by Ernesto Valverde’s decision to play all four of his marquee forwards, which left Griezmann anonymous on the wings and forced Messi to drop too deep.
Leganés looked to have Barça where they wanted them, the pace of their attackers was causing their opponents’ defence plenty of problems, catching them out high up the pitch and they had a number of near-misses as they sought to double their lead.
Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t keep up their early intensity. They dropped back deeper and deeper as the had wore on and Barça came close to equalising twice, hitting the post and Suarez forcing a brilliant save from Cuellar.
They made it to half time with their lead intact, but it didn’t last far beyond the break. Messi clipped a free kick into the box and picked out Suarez who somehow escaped the attentions of three defenders to score with a free header.
Soon after, the introductions of Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal altered the course of the game in Barça’s favour. Now Barça had complete control of the midfield and were almost permanently camped in the Leganés half. It was going to be a long last half hour for Javier Aguirre’s team to hold out and although they couldn’t quite manage it, they were only undone in slightly unfortunate circumstances.
They had gone close to scoring themselves, Rubén Perez’s effort being palmed away by Ter Stegen before Barça broke and won a corner. The corner came in and the ball fell to Vidal who hammered the ball into the net from close range. But the linesman’s flag was raised so it wouldn’t count. Or so most people in the stadium thought…
A VAR review actually showed that the ball had ricocheted through to Vidal via a deflection off a Lega defender so the goal stood. A fair decision, but one typical of the lack of luck they’ve endured so far this season.
Despite pouring forward in search of an equaliser, there was no way through the Barça defence and it could have got even worse before the end as Messi put Ousmane Dembele clean through, but he took the ball too wide and saw his shot easily dealt with by Cuellar.
So disappointment for Lega, whose battle to climb out of the bottom three goes on, while Barça stayed top, although the online reaction to their win made it seem more like they’d been beaten.
Match Rating: 8/10
Match Cost: €60 💶
The first day of December saw me head to a new ground, taking Metro Line 9 down to Artilleros before the making the short walk to Campo de la Dehesa, home of ED Moratalaz.
After a café con leche in the very nice bar (no scarves on sale sadly) I headed outside just in time for the sun to come out ahead of kick off. It didn’t last long and by the second half the rain was fairly heavy.
The conditions didn’t affect the football though. Visitors RSD Alcalá played some very impressive stuff, much to the delight of their large and particularly vocal following. The only problem was that they were up against a goalkeeper in the form of his life.
Yayo stopped absolutely everything that Alcalá could throw at him during the first half. Yeah, there was an element of good fortune about more than one of the saves but as a goalkeeper all that really matters is getting your body in the way of the ball and he did that with aplomb.
The match basically became a contest between the Alcalá forwards and Yayo and the goalkeeper held the upper hand until the 66th minute when after making another good save, he was undone as the loose ball fell to midfielder Maikel and he tapped in to make it 1-0.
Moratalaz couldn’t respond to going behind and the game was put beyond doubt in the 86th minute with a fine finish from left back Dani Navarro who drilled the ball into the bottom corner beyond Yayo’s despairing five. The hosts almost grabbed a consolation goal in injury time with their best effort of the game, hitting the post with a free kick.
Match Rating: 8/10
Match Cost: Free! 💶
Next up, it’s the puente weekend in Madrid and that means lots of football and the wonder that is staggered kick off times! I have a few games already pencilled in so expect to hear about them very soon.