United is brimming with health and swept Barcelona away at Old Trafford. There are rivals and scenarios that are still inaccessible for a Barça team that cannot find its place in Europe. The English are more of a team, they have a better squad and they are more electric than Barça. Ten Hag did not stop putting forwards until winning the game while Xavi did not stop looking at his defenses after a long-suffering and sterile exercise in resistance in the Europa League. Lewandowski’s goal only served to decorously comply with a withdrawal that was seen coming since Barça players began to fall and United’s offensive fever increased. It is already known that the Barcelona fans concede two goals per game in continental matches, nothing to do with the League, and they found themselves with a defeat they had not known since October, when they fell precisely in a continental match against Bayern Munich.
De Gea, Varane, Shaw, Wan-Bissaka (Diogo Dalot, min. 66), Lisandro Martínez, Casemiro, Fred, Bruno Fernandes, Rashford (McTominay, min. 87), Jadon Sancho (Alejandro Garnacho, min. 66) and Wouter Weghorst (Antony, min. 45)
Ter Stegen, Koundé, Ronald Araújo (Marcos Alonso, min. 81), Alex Balde, A. Christensen, Busquets, Kessié Franck, Frenkie De Jong, Raphinha (Ansu Fati, min. 75), Lewandowski and Sergi Roberto (Ferrán Torres, min 70)
goals 0-1 min. 17: Lewandowski. 1-1 min. 46: Fred. 2-1 min. 72: Anthony.
Referee Clement Turpin
Yellow cards Sergi Roberto (min. 59), Lewandowski (min. 71), Alejandro Garnacho (min. 77), Busquets (min. 83) and Casemiro (min. 85)
Xavi recovered the formula of the four midfielders even when Pedri and Gavi were missing, the players who give the team its identity; the man from Tenerife because of his calm and finesse and the Andalusian because of his blessed madness, always competitive and even more so against opponents as intense as United. The Catalans were interested in having the ball in any case, finishing the plays and avoiding the transitions of an English team that from the lineup was referred to the first leg if the discharge of Lisandro Martínez is excepted. Ten Hag was hurt by that 2-2 tie after his players wasted enough chances —the coach’s words— to finish off the tie at the Camp Nou.
The start of the match endorsed Ten Hag’s bet. Ter Stegen responded very well to a point-blank shot from Bruno Fernandes. United pressed hard and high up against the roar of Old Trafford and the Barcelona fans kept losing the ball, physically inferior, unable to keep up with the English rhythm, too exposed to the tackles of Bruno Fernandes, Rashford and Sancho, pushed by Casemiro. The only Barça player who let go of the straitjacket put on by United was Balde. The full-back was innocently hooked by the arm of Bruno Fernandes in a turn inside the area and the referee awarded a penalty that Lewandowski converted. The goal was a surprise for a Barça that lived pending Ter Stegen’s area
Despite the fact that possession of the leather seemed like a chimera in such an intense duel, the Barça media added more than United’s. Kessié ran without stopping; Sergi Roberto played easy, pending the reading of the game, as only the boys from La Masia know; De Jong jumped and helped cover Balde; and Busquets corrected and directed, a benchmark for the game and a point of support for Barcelona defenders and forwards. The English deflated and stopped intimidating Ter Stegen. Bucket’s physique, fast and fast, was more unbalancing than Rashford’s. The second goal did not come because Sergi Roberto, as neat in the game as he was not very forceful, forgave a gift when De Gea’s ball came out.
Ten Hag intervened at half-time and challenged Barça with two wingers after turning to Antony and dispensing with striker Weghorst. The azulgranas were shocked and conceded the equalizer due to a mistake by Kessié on the edge of the box that Fred penalized. The failures of the two teams marked a match that was more balanced and vibrant than well played despite the noise of Old Trafford. The fans were inflamed again after United woke up. The burden was continuous in Ter Stegen’s arc. Xavi, however, was slow to act, probably because the Barcelona fans gradually settled down again, more present on the opposite court after a header from Koundé, neutralized by De Gea’s hand.
The stillness of the Barca coach contrasted with the impatience of Ten Hag. The Dutch coach ended up putting together a seemingly irrepressible attacking squad with the entry of Garnacho before Xavi retired Sergi Roberto and opted for Ferran Torres. The match was already going back and forth and it seemed to make more sense to add a third striker than to keep an inside player waiting for Araujo to recover. The Catalans could not hold out, inferior in the melee, and in a ball won by Fernandes came Antony’s goal and United’s comeback.
The 2-1 had no remedy for Barça even though the game ended in De Gea’s area. The scoreboard escapes from the catalog of cruel European defeats of the leader of the League. Despite competing well, the Catalans could not contain an ambitious and runaway United at Old Trafford. The theater of dreams ended with the triumphant march of a Barça that is equally bad at the Champions League and the Europa League.
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