Another disastrous outing saw Barcelona leave the Vallecas without a single point, being defeated 2-1 by Andoni Iraola’s resilient Rayo Vallecano. Despite the golden opportunity to extend their lead to 14 points due to Real Madrid’s slip against Girona, the Blaugrana missed out on the chance to virtually seize the league title, and continue their poor run of form with a disappointing loss.
Despite the favorable signs prior to the game, the Catalans fell short against their newfound kryptonite. In the last four encounters between Barcelona and Rayo, not only did the Catalans fail to beat the Madrid-based outfit once but actually lost 3 out of the 4 games in the last two seasons. Cold comfort, but at least they did not leave this time without scoring a goal.
The brightest ray of hope was the return of Pedri González into Barça’s starting XI. In his absence, it became even more evident how essential cog he is in Xavi’s machine, but yesterday, even with the similarly returning Frenkie de Jong on his side, he failed to make an impact. Control was basically nonexistent in the midfield, and the so-hailed midfield trio of the future with Frenkie, Pedri, and Gavi felt the absence of Busquets dearly.
Also, individual mistakes and marginal decisions directly influencing the scoreline – not according to the Blaugrana supporters’ desire – didn’t help to get a favorable result. Frenkie de Jong’s slip and Araújo out of position played a huge role in the second goal conceded after Fran García’s lightning execution. On the other side of the pitch, probably microscope was needed to detect Lewandowski’s millimetric offside at 0-1.
Still, these are not excuses for such a shameless result. In possession, Barcelona failed to significantly endanger Dimitrievski’s goal, and the only big chance – aside from Lewandowski’s late consolation goal – came from a fast break, which the same Polish striker failed to convert in the middle of the first half.
By numbers, it was a pretty even match, with a slight advantage for us: 0.73–0.87 in expected goals, 9 vs 10 in total shots, 6 against 5 in shots on target, and 1–1 big chances on each side. It would not be that shameful of a result if it was against a big team, but anyhow, even in good shape, Rayo couldn’t be counted as such, and a win against them is the paper form, expected result.
From that perspective, yesterday’s loss is an unacceptable defeat – thankfully, Xavi’s men didn’t get directly punished for their weak performance, thanks to Girona’s 4-2 win over Real Madrid earlier, so the 11-point gap remains untouched. However, such a lackluster late form does not augur for a pleasant ending to the season if the issues aren’t solved as soon as possible. Nothing is certain yet. Next challenge: Real Betis, April 29, Camp Nou.