The crowd was on their feet to let the palms of their hands meet.
The victory snatched away with less than two minutes to play.
No-one shouted, yelled or barked when one man was left unmarked.
I’ll give you hint: it was not a Barça player.
One team was severely outmatched, playing an opponent that stands seventeen spots higher in the league table. One team recently got embarrassed by Deportivo de la Coruña, while their opponent recently embarassed AC Milan. One team’s entire payroll doesn’t even come close to their opponent’s star player’s salary. One team was fighting for relegation, their opponent league leaders by a comfortably wide margin. And one team never gave up, which led to their just reward when their captain equalized in the 88th minute.
Holy diving headers!
What would Gotham City look like if Batman didn’t feel like fighting? If he just went throught the motions? As if by merely showing his face, errrr… -mask, he could deter crime? As if he could bust heads without that want in his punches?
I can hear the Joker laughing.
What would food taste like if your girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife/mom stopped caring? If they cooked because they had to, and not because they like to, or even because they love you. If they just went through the motions? What does food taste like without that want in the kitchen?
A lot like yesterday’s game.
With an eye on our upcoming Champions League fixture, assistant schemer Roura came up with a plan B that consisted of Pinto, Montoya, Piqué, Bartra, Dani Alves, Song, Thiago, Cesc, Tello, Messi and Alexis, a line-up that satisfied most if not all culés on our esteemed blog by resting the majority of our regular first teamers and possibly even more so by finally starting our young defenders Marc Bartra and Martin Montoya.
Looking at the squad list the most notable inclusion, of course, was king Eric, who received a vigorous ovation from the Celta supporters as he made his way onto their grounds. He did not play however, a glorious moment in F.C. Barcelona history which will be all the sweeter when it takes place in our own stadium.
I personally felt that the technical staff could have sat Messi as well – not only to give our Pulga a well needed break after a vomit-inducing World Cup qualifier played in the heights of the Bolivian Andes, but also because it would have meant that without Puyol, Xavi, Valdés, Iniesta and Leo, the pimped-out one would have captained our squad for his first time ever at what was effectively his homecoming in the Balaidos. Yes Sir, you can call me sentimental like that. Alas, José Manuel, it was not to be.
Within three minutes of kick-off we had given up possession just as many times with Bartra, Thiago and Piqué seemingly confused as to which color shirt they were supposed to pass the ball. Half an hour later the match had evolved into an all out snorefest. God almighty how the mighty can bore us! It took all of twenty-eight minutes for the first shot to be unleashed and this only after Gerard Piqué, the leader of our defense, almost deflected a pass into our own goal. Pinto’s double save saved us, and kind of served as a wake-up call…well, for some of our players, anyway.
Messi turned his defender to open up on Tello who blasted over and wide, and he then provoked a yellow card from Cabral when he threatened to break free minutes later. Celta de Vigo was lucky to avoid a clear penalty when Lionel tried to find his way through three of their defenders. Then again, we were lucky to still have 11 men on the pitch as we were saved by the referee who judged Park Chu-Young to have committed the first foul when Bartra used his arms and hips to prevent the Arsenal loanee to go one-on-one with Pinto earlier in the game.
The first goal of the match was to fall on the other side, and it fell way too easily, after a Bartra give-away led to (again) Bartra and Pique leaving Park Chu-Young with way too much space in the penalty area to pass to ball unto a grateful Natxo Insa.
Their lead was not to last, though. Soon enough Leo found Tello who equalized with a sublime finish to take us into half time on level terms.
Up until then, in my not-so-humble opinion, only three players had bothered to show up: Leo Messi, who, although not overly active, at least provided some danger whenever he received the ball; Tello, who consistently got free and created space through speed on the left flank; and of course
Golden Locks Dani Alves, whose running up and down the right was further illuminated by his brilliant *cough* head of platinum blond hair.
The rest of the team fell some way short of expectations. Pique and Bartra were decidedly not impressive and neither was Montoya who, granted, as a natural right back had to fill in for Jordi Alba and Adriano Correia on the left side of the defense.
Song was not bad without being particularly good. Of course it does not help that his position might be the one where it is most difficult to shine. More alarmingly however was the fact that Thiago and Cesc, our midfield duo for the future, were mostly anonymous – the former showing a bit of flash but very little substance and the latter showing nearly nothing of either.
Alexis Sanchez, well rested after coming home earlier than expected from South America due to a red card in Chile’s lost game against lowly Peru, was horrid throughout the first half. The self-proclaimed jugadorazo* sure didn’t play like one as he hardly touched the ball, let alone doing anything of note when he did, his only completed pass that I remember being to an off-side Leo Messi.
No surprises here that none of Thiago, Fabregas or Lexus made it to the end of the game. The second half might have been a little bit better, but certainly not much.
Any positives? Yes. Cristian Tello was a maneater, gobbling up his direct opponent time after time with his guile and his speed. He always made himself available for the pass and he was never afraid to take on the defense. I don’t know if his future lies with Barça – actually, I think Neymar’s coming might make his particular skill set redundant – but I sure wish that we would have negotiated a higher release clause. A two-trick pony he may be, he was definitely our most dangerous attacking outlet against Celta de Vigo.
And he remained so even after Iniesta and Villa had come on with less than 25 minutes of game time, until Messi found him with a laser-precision pass that burned a hole through five defenders. The Maneater one-timed it with his weaker left foot, right back to our record-breaking Argentine, who neither doubted nor hesitated to shoot the ball into the net and so became the first ever to score in nineteen consecutive league games, against nineteen different opponents.
We finally got the lead with a bit over a quarter of an hour left. Just enough time to fall back asleep and let Borja Oubiña head in the equalizer. And, you know, because I just love to contradict myself, Celta de Vigo did not deserve the equalizer as much as we deserved the equalizer. We have to give them credit for not giving up and taking their chance at the end, but they were mostly horrible. They were certainly a lot better when they played us at the Camp Nou half a season ago. But we got our just desserts, simply because we allowed them back in the game.
We did not want it enough.
This might be a cliché… Ok, wait. It is a full-blown cliché, but that doesn’t make it less true. And it leaves me with questions. It is one thing for players to A) be tired after their two WC qualifiers and B) have their minds on the Paris Saint-Germain game this Tuesday. This I understand. And I understand that when the league is as good as won and you are playing against relegation fodder, you might not want it as much. This is very natural, and even more so days before a Champion’s League Clash.
But two of the only three players who are a shoe-in to start this Tuesday, Leo Messi and Dani Alves, showed that want. Tello showed that want. The others, made up mostly of canteranos who should be fighting for more minutes, or multi-million purchases who should be fighting to prove their worth, did not. And it is for those players more than any that that lack of want is incomprehensible.
It is that want that can make the difference between a clearance and a half-assed clearance which led to the cross headed in by Oudiña (Montoya). It is that want through which you can obtain more of that much coveted playing time in a defensive line that is constantly daunted by injuries (Bartra). That want is what could lead you to become the “next” Xavi (Thiago), or even replace him in the short term (Fabregas).
For some of our players, the talent is there and in plain sight for all to see. For others it might not be. The want should never be a question, however.
“I’m happy with the chances I’m getting, the confidence the coaches are giving me and I hope to continue to grow”
Cristian Tello Herrera
* loosely translated as “great player”