There are games that are explained by the goals, and if you like by the scorers more than their football, such as Elche-Barça. The 0-1 score is not yet clear if it was Diego González’s own goal or De Jong’s, a situation that reflects how dull the clash was, the locals very defensive and Barcelona flat. And the 0-2 was scored with a header by Riqui Puig, a player who measures 1.69 meters and who had just left to lose time, have more the ball and ensure a victory as sung as required by more calamities accumulated by Barça.
Nothing better than the permanent smile of a substitute like Riqui to encourage the regretful Barça team in a moment of survival in the same way that Laporta’s illusion invites many members to dream that the club will come out of the hole in which it is stuck when elections are held for this Sunday and now scheduled for March 7. Barcelona lives with sensations and illusions because the reality is that it was difficult for Koeman’s squad to make a difference and add his fifth win in a row against a rival who has totaled 13 games without winning in LaLiga.
The Catalans still lack game, criteria and collective sense and therefore hierarchy and focus in the absence of the sanctioned Messi. Nobody even noticed that Umtiti was playing, a center-back that nobody knows if he is injured or out of shape, because Barça was concentrated, better without the ball, little demanded and with a single error caused by Mingueza and corrected by Ter Stegen. Exhausted by the calendar, anguished by the classification and neglected by the lack of reinforcements, it was enough for Barça with not making more mistakes than necessary and entrusting De Jong and Pedri to solve the inanimate appointment of the Martínez Valero stadium.
Elche is a competitive and canchero team that entrusts its luck to the good collective organization of Negro Almirón. Although it has yielded defensive reliability, it is not easy to attack, and more so for Barça, because it is difficult for them to give speed to the ball, to be fine in the pass, with no surprise other than Dembélé’s actions. The spaces were scarce and no azulgrana managed to enter the Badía area. In the absence of play on the wings, there was neither fluidity nor depth at Barça. The Catalans played a lullaby, without spark or rhythm, easy to contain by Elche.
Nothing was happening to Koeman’s despair. Barça was uncomfortable with the rival, the field and the wind, too many adversities for a slow, flat and predictable squad, without arrival or chances, lacking a mid-range shot, as if they did not know what to do with the ball, accustomed to it play Messi. Although the goal came more by dominance and insistence than by football, when the game was already becoming costly for Elche, the play was the best that Barcelona wove up to then.
De Jong and Pedri progressed down the left for Braithwaite and the Dane’s right-footed cross was clinched by De Jong after being finished off at his own goal by Diego González, under pressure from Griezmann. The goal expressed that the best way to disorganize Elche was from the extreme, widening the field instead of shortening it, causing the rival to fail if the striker did not hit the mark, dislodged as Dembélé and Griezmann were. The action finally caused Dembélé to open up more to the right and Jordi Alba appeared on the left.
The contest was fueled by the joy of Barça and the aggressiveness of Elche. The Catalans began to lose their leather and Pedri sought to enable Griezmann with his inside pass. Thus came two opportunities, one neutralized by Ter Stegen’s right foot, splendid in hand-to-hand with Rigoni, and the second starring Badía, successful in his response to Dembélé’s shot. The game was opened from goal to goal due to the lack of control and governance, Elche encouraged and Barça vulnerable, Griezmann misguided.
Coming back and forth lasted very little and the gear wheel helped to regain the initial tedium despite the interest that Trincão finally showed. There is no good or bad game in which the Portuguese is not required by Koeman, equally condescending in recent meetings with Riqui. And, as it happened against Real with penalties, the midfielder once again showed that he is a footballer of moments, author of the 0-2, after an excellent appearance by De Jong.
Riqui Puig did not stop laughing, happy as a Easter, and Barça began to dream after a match to forget in Elche.