FC Barcelona took on Getafe away in their first match of the 2023/2024 La Liga season on Sunday evening.
Here’s the result and some talking points from the tie.
Getafe brought the ruckus
It was wild out there at the Estadio Coliseum Alfonso Perez, with (Javier) Bordalas-ball shaking Barca up to the extent that Ronald Araujo decided to catch an in-play ball to even his own disbelief.
There were calls for someone feisty like Gavi to enter the fray, but that quickly seemed like a bad idea following a key development on the stroke of half time.
Raphinha fell perfectly into their trap
Granted there was no smoke without a fire, but the Brazilian again let his emotions get the better of him as seen last season with tantrums when he was brought off earlier than he would have liked by Xavi.
Booked shortly before for animated protests when being fouled by La Masia graduate Carles Alena, Raphinha was sent for an early bath after an elbow smash on Gaston Alvarez when probably anticipating the Uruguayan would come in on him hard to win a lofted ball that Frenkie De Jong was preparing but eventually backed out of attempting.
Eagle-eyed Twitter onlookers proved Alvarez handed out just as bad immediately before the incident, and with Jaime Mata sent off before the hour, Raphinha’s dismissal didn’t prove too costly.
Ilkay Gungodan is not having much luck in Blaugrana so far
Returning to the starting XI for the first time since picking up a first half knock against Real Madrid in Arlington, Texas a fortnight ago, the ex-Manchester City captain’s tough luck continued.
Missing an early close range chance, he then laid a fair few minutes on the ground receiving care for a blow that winded him ahead of hitting the post when a rebounded Raphinha shot spilled out.
In his last contribution prior to being hooked for Ansu Fati, he again missed from close quarters but was offside. Still, the German can’t be faulted for lack of effort.
Oriol Romeu made a strong second debut for his boyhood team
Buildinh on a strong preseason, the Sergio Busquets replacement again performed effortlessly alongside Frenkie de Jong and was Barca’s best player in a forgettable first half.
Coming close after a slalom run which ended with him firing his shot just past the post, the imposing number 18 almost smashed a volley home not long after Mata had been sent off.
Spreading the ball about with ease and enjoying 90% passing accuracy, he deserved to finish the match but was brought off for Lamine Yamal.
Barca played a slow and predictable first half … enter Ez Abde – then Lamine Yamal
Moroccan Abde instantly made an impact by nearly karate-kicking a Pedri cross into the back of the net early in the second half.
On a blistering left wing run, he left his marker eating dust but could have perhaps done better with his cross into the area though there was just one option surrounded by blue shirts.
Then latching onto a Kounde pass with excellent control, he was brought down by Djene Dakonam as the last man to the disgust of his coach Xavi who was shown a red card.
On Barca’s next move of note before Lamal was introduced, Abde just missed clipping the post.
After it was Yamal’s turn. With his first touch, he cut inside and then played a wonderful ball to fellow sub Ansu Fati who should have done better with his volley.
The 16-year-old was a constant threat but couldn’t create a goal after having a part in three in the Joan Gamper Trophy against Tottenham Hotspur. Yet it is through these cameos that he will only continue improving after picking up a good 25 minutes’ experience here.
Robert Lewandowski’s struggles continue
Following up on a poor first half of 2023 and preseason, the Pole was once again AWOL in the box and when he was needed to link up play.
Half a yard off the pace, he could have done better with a header inside the six-yarder in the second half and failed to convert.
You could ask when Xavi might try Ansu Fati as the pure 9, but he did little to convince in his own display either.
Culers will expect more next week
It is very early days of course, but Barca begin the defense of their La Liga title already two points behind Real Madrid.
Had Barca been awarded a penalty deep into stoppage time, however, we might have been talking about a scrappy, hard-earned win for the Catalans instead.
Next week against Cadiz, Culers will expect to be entertained more. The Blaugrana will face a less physical opponent, though, while also playing on their own (temporary) home turf where hopefully they will have a better referee running the show.
Thanks to his red card, Xavi won’t be able to command his troops from the sideline and might have to call on his brother Oscar to take over.