Barça 2 – Celtic 1, in which we scored one goal too many for the fourth time

This is a guest post by Lev.

I live in South America. One of the many charms of my chosen stomping grounds are the many camionetas clogging our streets, avenues and highways. Taking their cue from this continent and its people they come in a wide assortment of colors, with black fumes blowing out of their tail pipes and from under their hoods and with reggeaton invariably blasting out of pimp-my-ride style speakers that are strategically placed from the driver seat all the way to the back of the bus.

They are filled with street (or should I say bus) vendors that try to sell you anything from toasted plantain chips to facial cream to books that teetch inglés, rappers free-styling for loose change, beggars that threaten to rob you, robbers that threaten to kill you and, somewhat less exciting but definitely the majority, your usual assortment of people like you and me that go to work in the morning and strive to get back home in a (often disappointingly un-) timely fashion – whether it takes sitting on the floor instead of a seat, standing in the aisle staring into some fat lady’s sweating arm pit or hanging out of the door going 120 on a potholed freeway.

As you can imagine, throughout the years I have learned a thing or two about buses, of which the most relevant to our club are the following:

1. Patience

2. Buses are bound to break


Guaranteed to get you home most of the time (photo from

Our line-up was Valdés, Adriano, Mascherano, Bartra, Alba, Song, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Messi, Sanchez. We went into Tuesday night’s encounter without Busquets, who served the first of a two game suspension after his red card against Benfica, and without our four first choice defenders. This meant that Song got to play in his natural position as a holding midfielder and also that, some will say finally, Bartra got his first start in an official game.

Barça gained possession almost immediately after Celtic kicked off, tiki-taka’d the ball around for a minute or two when Iniesta put Alexis in front of the keeper with an inch-perfect pass. It was at that precise moment that Mr. Sanchez started a collective effort at making the game infinitely more complicated than it should have been by squandering his one-on-one, finessing the shot just left of the goal post.

I don’t like it when we miss such a clear cut scoring chance within the opening minutes in the exact same way that I don’t like it when right when I am about to take the well-anticipated first bite of my deliciously prepared turkey and mayo sandwich it slips out of my hands and falls on the floor. An ominous omen of things to come, some might say. A definite sign that today is not going to be my day, according to others. Up against a conspiring universe, this game is not going to be our game.

Life’s complicated… (photo from

And sure enough, up steps Mascherano. Wait. Rewind. It is not fair to blame our little boss for what happened. Xavi’s corner finds Messi, who controls the ball and who you know is looking for one of those diagonal passes that is both a lob and a through ball at the same time that he has damn near patented. He finds it. Zoom to Ghostface, who one-touches it to Bartra, whose header is stopped by Forster, the Celtic goalkeeper who is not having it today, not at all. A finger licking combination, for sure. Or more elegantly, in the words of Xavi Hernandez, ¡Que puta jugada!* And BOOM – Celtic rush forward for what seems like the first time in 17 minutes. All of a sudden it is three on three and looking dangerous when thankfully Adriano intercepts to snuff out the danger. However, as if he is guilt-stricken by killing off the first Scottish attack of the game he gives the ball away like a headless chicken running straight back into the hands of farmer Jones on Thanksgiving morning.

We resort to a foul and give them a free shot at our Achilles heel: the set-piece. Hide your children and fire at will.

The ball is swung into the box, Samaras gives it a nudge, upon which the ball deflects off of Mascherano and into the goal. Celtic fans worldwide go ballistics, thoughts of beating the world’s best team (yes, I said it) rising in their minds like Guiness stout. It is important to note here that our tackling Argentine terrier was, in this case, really unfortunate. The poor guy now has two own goals behind his name while not having scored in the proper net for more than two seasons, which must be some kind of record – at least for an F.C. Barcelona player. More pertinently we suck at defending set pieces. More accurately it’s an open secret that we have sucked at defending set pieces for years and without Puyol, Pique and Abidal to hold the fort against a gang of giant leprechauns, well…Let’s just say I did not come here to sing the blues. At 0-1 for the white and greens we still have more than 70 minutes to go. Not my day? Hmmpf! Not our game? We’ll see about that.

Headless? Mascherano’s own goal…(photo from the Adam DavyEMPICS Sport)

For the rest of the first half we are in complete control. Celtic defends with 9 players. Cowardly, according to some. Bravely, according to others. Besides the point, according to me, because either way we know that we are trying to steer our Ferrari around a parked bus, the parking of which admittedly from the bus driver’s point of view is a better strategy than trying to race us on foreign grounds.

We continue like it ain’t no thing. Our new free kick specialist narrowly misses two free kicks. Forster saves a long range effort from Adriano. Bartra, nodding wide another wide open header, fails his second attempt of scoring on his debut as a starter and by doing so also fails to make my day and probably that of a whole host of culés rooting for him (raise your hands, I know you’re there). Celtic keeps defending. They don’t even threaten to threaten and just when the lack of action
gets to the point of where you might start to get antsy, when the first half is almost about to finish, when hope of going into the break even Steven is faltering, when you start thinking “uhmmmm, errrrrrrr, aaaaargh, maybe this isn’t our game”, Messi sets up Xaviniesta to combine for a goal that most teams can’t pull off against practice cones. Jefecito 1 – Don Andrés 1. Patience. Buses are bound to break.

Half time is spent happily talking about the game at the Riazor just three days earlier. We know what is coming in the second half. We are up against a sturdy, green and white bus that came to our house and, apart from the occasional forward spurt, is only too proud to sit on our lawn for 90 minutes. We have to stay patient. And we have to pass, get open, tiki, taka, up the tempo, play our game, stay sharp and keep an eye on the counter attack. Thank God today we don’t have to score another goal today. This is the Champion’s League group stage and we are on top of the table. It
is not a must-win scenario. We can relax and enjoy the game, which, in an era of frenzied Madrid-Barça hatred rivalry where we can’t drop points in the Liga games, is fine by me.

You can’t quit if you really want it… (photo from

But it hurts to lose, so when we give up an uncontested header that is only narrowly missed, again from a set piece (!), I can’t help but scream a little. Patience. We dominate possession and create plenty of chances. Leo lobs the ball just over. Iniesta and Adriano try from outside the box. Forster channels his inner Cech and blocks two close range efforts of Messi (total surprise) and another one from Sanchez (complete lack of surprise). With 10 minutes to go Doctor Vilanova inserts Tello and Villa, taking out Lexis and Pedrito. It’s the first time this season that he does not switch to a 3-4-3 formation in order to win the game – maybe because of our makeshift defense or possibly because it is clearly ok to draw this one. We don’t need the points. However, if there is one thing we have learned so far this season it is that we definitely want the wins, so we keep pressing the bhoys so far back it seems they are defending with almost 10 players in the box.

Buses are bound to break. Time is ticking, but you know the goal is going to come, you can feel it, you can sense it. We are getting closer and closer. And then it happens. Iniesta gets the ball to Villa. One of the greatest decisions of the 21st century has been to not feed el Guaje regularly over the summer of 2012 because now that he is back he’s hungrier than ever. Tightly guarded he receives the ball, and yet without a fraction of a doubt he blasts an unstoppable shot to the bottom right corner that leaves Forster totally, completely and utterly chanceless… Right on the post! That was the one! That was the one that got away. ¡Eso era el gol! people scream from behind me, and not for the first time either this second half.

Because that’s the way the game goes. After having the ball 82% of the time. After 27 shots against 6, according to the stats (I counted 3, but I’m probably wrong and the stats are probably right). After 15 times as many corners as our opponent. After all of this, victory is not guaranteed. Not even a draw is. Because unless your team is Deportivo de la Coruña, goals guarantee victories, and you can’t miss a plethora of wide open scoring opportunities and expect to walk away with three points. We know that Celtic, or any other team for that matter, can score against us, can beat us, can shut us out. This is football. This is our game, and it’s the one we love and this is Barça, our team, the one we love perhaps more than the game itself. We are not infallible. We are the best team in the world, but not on any given day. In football you can actually be the best team on any given day and still draw or even lose the game. When that happens, all that remains is to smile that bittersweet smile, knowing that though we might walk away empty-handed our hearts are filled with pride.**

¡Eso era el gol! (photo from Albert S. Slop / Emotix)

Last season that would have been the last paragraph. Some things are just not meant to be, and you often feel it coming at the start. Call it the dropped sandwich theory if you will, but it’s still just a theory. In reality we had one more shot. We were patient, we never gave up, and in the 94th minute Jordi Alba, who ran up and down the pitch relentlessly for the whole game, got his toes on an Adriano cross and willed the 28th shot into the goal.

What this means, I don’t know. It could be luck. Only 6 months ago we came up against a blue double-decker from London for two games not unlike this one, in which we played well and repeatedly found plenty of cracks that we failed to exploit, which I felt then and feel now was a lack of luck. What I do know is that we have a group of players a lot of whom are culés just like us or, truth be told, more than us actually, and that are determined to win games. Determined to make
their own luck. Who die hard like Bruce Willis. Who have mostly won everything there is to win but seem hungrier than ever. Thanks to whom I took my bus home with a smile on my face on Tuesday. For that I am grateful, and I would like to leave you with two quotes:

Zubizarreta: “When Villa hits the post and you look at your watch, you think: that’s it. But this team has always something left.”

Vilanova: “I admit I wouldn’t mind having a calm game one day.”***

Jordi Alba, MOTM… (photo from / EFE)

*Xavi might not have actually said that

**I don’t always smile the bittersweet smile. Depending on the importance of the game I am also
known to pout the boyish pout or even grimace the bitter grimace.

***If it continues like this he will age faster than Pep.

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.


  1. Awesome, awesome review, Lev – love the analogy of your local bus to Barca’s opposition!


  2. Lev, you biased idiot!

    Sorry. I just had to! 😛

    Excellent review. I really enjoyed reading that and reliving the game. I hope you write for us again some time.

  3. That picture at the end, beauties =). Anyone know a good site to get the longer about 10mins highlights for our games.

  4. That’s what I’M talking about!! See, being a guest reviewer isn’t too bad a gig now, is it?

    And that is some serious mean muggin’ by Bartra, to the left of Alba. Dayum! He and Alba are like mean muggin’ yin/yang.

  5. Thanks for the compliments! Please excuse the formatting errors, typos and other mistakes.

    Off Topic: Casillas voted for Ramos to get the balon d’or and Del Bosque as Coach of the Year… I know some Portuguese Madrileños who probably aren’t very happy right now, possibly even sad 🙂

  6. sign up Lev! pay that man Mo Money!

    Lev, i seem to remember you are a dutchman living in south america? no? where are you from originally? either way, your english skills are top notch, better than most native speakers ha ha… at least here in the States

    1. I was born and raised in Rotterdam, but I spent about 10 years of my life in Canada, Ireland and the U.S. before it all went South… And although my spoken Dutch is still ok I just can’t write it well anymore :s

  7. aggregate records of teams from major european leagues, CL 2012.

    spain 10-1-1 (4 teams)
    germany 6-2-1 (3 teams)
    england 6-2-4 (4 teams)
    portugal 4-1-4 (3 teams)
    russia/ukraine 5-1-6 (4 teams)
    italy 1-4-1 (2 teams)
    france 2-1-6 (3 teams)

  8. Lev, you done good!

    Messi sets up Xaviniesta to combine for a goal that most teams can’t pull off against practice cones. 😆
    Yeah, you live for those moments. We are fortunate to watch a team that gives us many such moments.

    Anyone else (disregarding the need for treatment of anxiety disorders, the increased use of antacids, and the heart palpitations that occur during set pieces that at any other time would send us running to the ER) finding this season to be an absolute blast?

    That said, a manita now and then could be a welcome change of pace.

    1. Fortunate, indeed! This team is incredible. After supporting them for over 20 years I feel so lucky, because they are giving us football that NO club has EVER given their fans – all the while doing so with players that were raised to bleed the colors. Amazing, really.

  9. Whoa! The Premiership is going with a “different media partner” from next season through 2016. No word as to who yet. BeIN? ESPN exclusively? I can’t believe BeIN could have wrested the Prem rights from Fox Soccer already. And what the hell will they show, as they already jettisoned all the other stuff except for the Prem, Australia and Champions League.

    1. UPDATE: SportsBusinessInsider says that NBC bid 3x what Fox Soccer bid. No word on if BeIN was still in.

      NBC just grabbed rights for Formula One from Speed Channel. Weird. I still think the network will dump Tour de France coverage.

  10. i gotta say, it seemed clear that samaras was offside on that free kick where they got their goal. just seeing that now for first time on highlights. i dunno, maybe xavi played him on?

    1. ooga aga,

      I thought the same thing when they showed highlights during the game! However, the announcers never questioned it and the producers chose not to show the offside camera angle. Conspiracy??? :_

    2. Everyone probably just thought “oh Barca conceding a goal from a set piece with a huge deflection off their own player? nothing out of the ordinary here…!” :p

      To be fair, looked a very marginal call, the officials are only human, etc, etc…hopefully it evens out over the course of the season (actually I’d just prefer correct calls for the rest of the season!!)

  11. Lev,

    Nice work! Really enjoyed the review. Thanks for filling in and giving me my fix. Since this season began the background on my PC has been a picture of Pep tossed in the air with a huge smile on his face. I’ve just changed it to the picture of Alba, Barta, and our team celebrating the winning goal. The picture signifies what this team represents and the spirit and emotion they play with each game. This change of pictures signifies to me that I’ve let go of the Pep era and have wholeheartedly embraced Tito’s. It’s not as if I haven’t supported Tito 100% and not been thoroughly behind the team. It’s more of a sentimental attitude towards Pep & what he gave us and his relationship with FCB and it’s supporters. I will always have a place for Pep deeply in my heart, though Tito is now asking Pep to move over and make room!

    1. Yeah, he is doing a surprisingly good job. Football is a funny game though. If not for some last minute goals and Madrid’s bad start, how would Tito be judged right now?

  12. Ok, so just what is wrong with Pique’s foot ? There’s something not right about this. Puyol might be back earlier than expected but Pique who could have played the Clasico with painkillers still isn’t ready?

    1. I was thinking about this the other day.

      He’s still doing gym work, hasn’t been seen on a practice pitch since his injury and certainly hasn’t been seen kicking a ball around.

      I think that Pique has broken bones in his foot and that’s why it’s taking so long to heel heal. 🙂

  13. Echt een goede post Lev!! I hope you do this more often! Jou level is bijna hetzelfde als de Messi hater (ik moest dit in NL’ans doet hehe). Your mixture of humor in your post is similar to Isaiah and Kxevin!!

    1. Haha Isaiah always cracks me up and Kxevin’s reviews have me violently nodding my head in agreement before arguing over the ratings in the comment section 🙂

  14. Just watching the Freidburg Dortmund match, in honor of the midweek heroics of Dortmund. Its snowing like crazy in that stadium. The pitch looks unreal with all the snow fall.

    1. Caught the 2nd half. Dortmund were still attacking like crazy in those severe conditions. They needed that win to bounce back from Schalke defeat. Oh, and beating EE helped too! 🙂

  15. What do you all think of this Guardian piece on the demise of the English winger?

    Waddle blames the academy system, with its concentration on getting players to transfer the ball as quickly as possible. “Why are we so obsessed with two-touch football? In the final third you want to see something different – and we’re coaching it out of them. When Samir Nasri was at Marseille, you can bet nobody tried to stop him beating a man. When Lionel Messi was 14 or 15, nobody at Barcelona was shouting at him to get rid of it. There’s nothing more dangerous than going past a defender and getting a cross in. But what we’ve got is a world of bibs and cones.”

    It’s a very odd piece, IMO.

  16. It was at that precise moment that Mr. Sanchez started a collective effort at making the game infinitely more complicated than it should have been by squandering his one-on-one

    Collective effort?? I don’t know why but that bit made me smile thinking of Kxevin’s collective failure.

    exact same way that I don’t like it when right when I am about to take the well-anticipated first bite of my deliciously prepared turkey and mayo sandwich it slips out of my hands and falls on the floor

    Brilliant line!! But does this happen a lot to you?

    Messi sets up Xaviniesta to combine for a goal that most teams can’t pull off against practice cones

    Very true indeed 🙂

    It’s similar to Alba’s own goal last weekend. I do however still think that VV should’ve saved that if he didn’t decide to sit down.

    Vilanova: “I admit I wouldn’t mind having a calm game one day.”***

    I actually thought that Tito said the 4 letter word starting with F, until I started reading further 🙂

  17. I prefer Montoya to start at RB. Let Alves fully recover. Anyways, Montoya fully deserves to start. Bartra on the other shouldn’t start. It is an away match. Perhaps it is too daunting for him but then again, if not now, when is he ever going to learn.

    My wish is for Messi to be subbed off later in the match. He must be dead tired.

  18. I know it’s in a wrong post but I would like to disagree with many of you who thought that Iniesta and Messi had a poor match. I read the comments post first and then proceeded to watch the match.

    Based from the comments I thought Messi had one of his lazy and selfish days and Iniesta to be as shy of the ball as he was last weekend vs Deportivo. Iniesta had a horrible game vs them.

    That is another reason why I don’t think he can ever be considered 2nd or 3rd best in the world by many even though he is amazing but he is not consistent. He is still always good but to be considered the very best he has to perform at a very high level week in week out. He has too many off days to my liking. And his main problem is that he can’t lead the team like Xavi or Messi does. He is too ball shy at times.

    1. barca96,

      I am constantly at odds with myself when watching and evaluating Iniesta’s performances. I agree with you assessment that he is inconsistent, but his inconsistency isn’t always transparent. In a lot of matches he’ll have a poor 1st half and I’ll find myself wondering what is wrong with him, only to be smiling devilishly in the 2nd half by his amazing control and ghostly runs. I wonder if he is hesitant to take the game by the scruff of the neck because he feels he needs to defer to Messi. In cases where he’s not making an impact and contributing offensively, he still contributes defensively by maintaining possession and circulating the ball between Xavi and the rest of the team. I just don’t think he has it in him to attack attack attack. His mild mannered nature and passive attitude seem to translate to his game. Instead of attacking and forcing the issue every chance, he seems to pick his moments more carefully. Compare that to Messi, who does pick his moments, but much more frequently and with more abandon and you can become frustrated by Iniesta’s lack of decisiveness.

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