Barcelona marches into the second half of the season with a temporary 6-point lead in their hands. With a meager 1-goal margin, the Blaugranas came out victorious in the Catalans derby, and despite a really struggling game, Pedri’s goal sealed all the 3 important points against a tough Girona side.
Barca News Network brings you four talking points from Barcelona’s 1-0 win over Girona on matchday 19 of La Liga.
1. A tough contest
Defying the odds, Girona proved to be a difficult, competent opponent. Over the course of the 90 minutes, we have seen multiple facets of their game, and despite the obvious quality gap, they stood their ground well to make things difficult for us to prevail.
The first half was simply underwhelming. We barely had any chance to penetrate the Girona defense, having produced just 0.16 xG. On the other hand, at least Girona couldn’t create much havoc in our defense either, creating quite even, 0.20 xG worth of chances.
Our problems were quite visible during the first half. In Dembélé, we lost our most threatening weapon, and the lack of support from the left side made our play quite sterile and undangerous. Thankfully, Xavi managed to identify this problem and swapped in Jordi Alba for Marcos Alonso.
Bringing in Jordi proved to be the right call as he added that dynamism to the left flank we lacked, especially after Dembélé left the pitch. His attacking contribution, with his dangerous runs and crosses, finally bore fruit as after a high turnover, he gave the assist to Pedri’s winning goal.
However, what we could see now multiple times in the recent past, the goal brought satisfaction to the Blaugrana camp, maybe even too much of it. After the goal, Barcelona’s attacking intentions started to fade away, and seemingly comfortable with the result, rather sat back to defend the lead.
And, it nearly cost them dearly. As the Catalans slowly gave up control, Girona gradually grew into the game and started to create more and more danger towards ter Stegen’s goal. Moreover, Míchel’s men leveled – in terms of chances, producing both 8 shots and a fairly even, 1.06 xG against our 1.10 at the end of the 90 minutes.
Thankfully, they failed to turn these chances into goals and get through the German wall, and thus, we came out victorious from a struggling, balanced game.
2. A great concern
Indeed, the overall performance of the team was far from what one would have desired from the Blaugranas, but there was a certain moment that made all culés worried. It didn’t even take 30 minutes that the team’s probably a greatest star, Ousmane Dembélé left the pitch injured.
After a regular sprint, he often leaves defenders behind with, the flying Frenchman stopped. And at that point, you could see the pain on his face and knew that something happened. As he checked his thigh more frequently, fear awoke in the hearts of every Barcelona fan.
It was so long ago that many couldn’t remember. The curse that once determined his whole career, suddenly turned into a magical defending spell, keeping the demons of injury away from the gifted winger. Since Xavi took over, Dembélé changed totally. But now, the inevitable enemy returned.
And, it couldn’t have come at a worse time. With such a challenging month of February ahead, with two crucial duels against Manchester United in the Europa League, with successive difficult fixtures in the league against Betis, Sevilla, and Villarreal, it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
His absence will be palpable. During this season he has truly become the most important player of the Blaugranas, by all means. In his absence, the others will have to step up big time, and now, even bigger responsibility falls to the likes of Raphinha, who will have the arduous task to fill in the void left by the French star. Some big shoes to fill, and this game was not a great start to that.
3. Celebrating #100 in style
Moving onto some happier topics, yesterday played his 100th game in our club’s colors the amazing Pedri González. Just think about it, a 20-year-old hitting the 100-match mark at such a great club as Barcelona. It clearly shows that this young man is destined for greatness.
Again, his extensive skillset just shows how incredible a player he is. Intelligence, technique, creativity, he knows all. Ability to control the play, create something out of thin air or finish off those chances with cold-blooded perfection, he knows that. A complete player.
And, he celebrated his 100th appearance for the Catalan giants, accordingly, in style. Probably the last segment many were concerned about his play was finishing, but now, with back-to-back winning goals scored, he ticked the last box, silencing the doubters. Again, we are blessed to have such a gem in our hands.
4. Leading at the halfway
Even though it wasn’t a performance to be too proud of, it can also underline a newfound strength of the Barcelona. After successive 1-0 victories behind us, it’s clear that there were tough, balanced games, but for now, we learned how to deal with such situations.
For example, take last season as an example. When we had a difficult game and nothing seemed to click, we lacked that predator instinct that allowed us to overcome those difficult situations and somehow find a way to the opposition net, something that is the characteristic of the big teams.
Thankfully, while the defense upgraded levels to close off the opposition even better, the attacks got that penetrating force that held us back a lot previously. With that, it helped us in difficult moments when it really mattered, winning us important points to take us where we are now: at the top.
Halfway through the season, Barcelona reign on the throne of La Liga. After years of unsuccess, finally, the team is back on track, fighting for titles, and now, we are in the winning position. With 18 games behind their backs, Barcelona are currently on the 1st place of the La Liga 2022-23 season, and we hope that it remains the same.