Marelino came out with a couple surprises in the starting eleven. Fazio started next to Escudé on the back line in place of the suspended Spahic . Armenteros was expected by some to start in place of Perotti on the left and did. Most surprising of all, though, was rolling out Campaña (among the greener 18 year olds) for his first start with the club in the Camp Nou.
I must admit that the first half I saw looked like a terrible stop-motion video. My stream was struggling (more correctly, the internet at my pal’s place was struggling), but I did see several white blobs run near several bluish blobs. It was intense, I could tell! Apparently, Armenteros and Navas had great shots that Valdés parried. The second half was much clearer viewing, so I could actually see Medel move out to press Xavi and force a square pass here and there. I could watch Navarro and Armenteros track Alves’s runs, Fazio stay with Villa, and VARAS stop everything that made it through the rest of ’em. I saw Navas hit Rakitic on a 2v1 break that would’ve seen the Croatian all alone charging in on Valdés, but the pass wasn’t controlled well (and was a bit behind where it needed to be).
VARAS pushed balls around the posts, over the bar, and back out of the box throughout the second half. Marca was calling him “Supervaras” and is now calling him “Heróico Varas.” He was both of those things on the night as the Marca commentator wore himself out typing “Paradón de Varas” over and over and over. His stop of Messi’s penalty in the 95′ didn’t seem inevitable, but it did seem more possible than any recent penalty I can recall. There he went pouncing at that far corner to bump the ball wide and out for a throw in. The four minutes of extra time stretched nearly to eight after all was said and done.
Two streaks of note: 1.) VARAS and the defense start another shutout streak, 2.) STILL undefeated (along with Barcelona, Levante) this season.
Next week we’ll be without Kanouté and Navarro, who both received red cards in the final stretch of the match. Kanouté stooped a bit from his class-cloud, walking in front of Messi and dislodging the ball that he had set on the penalty spot (yellow card), and then immediately getting into a scrum with Cesc (red card). Navarro took down Pedro on the edge of the box (second yellow??? there was never a first, so this one is confusing). After watching an HD replay and slowing down the tussle before Messi’s penalty, it is clear that Kanouté, in a bit of a slapping motion, reaches up and brushes Cesc’s nose. Cesc then reels away in order to fall to the ground holding said nose. Rumors are already swirling as to what Cesc could have said to get such a violent reaction out of the usually stoic Malian, but it is clear that Kanouté received his first yellow and went to stand with the others before wheeling around and going after Cesc. Either way, he’ll not be playing against Racing.
Marcelino must be congratulated for the defensive turnaround of this team. We’d lost a combined 14-2 when visiting the Camp Nou in the last four years. The players clearly understand how to play as a defensive unit this season, constantly putting out each other’s fires and plugging all the right holes that form – especially when being stretched and pulled in every direction by Barcelona’s offensive style.
Good match! Power to the ¢¢!!!!