After chaining two consecutive defeats against Cádiz and Rayo Vallecano, Barcelona, in another irregular performance, recovered their pulse and added three vital points (2-1) in their struggle to qualify for the next edition of the Champions League after defeating to a quarrelsome Mallorca that does not leave the danger zone of LaLiga.
A goal from Memphis Depay in the first half and another from Sergio Busquets in the second left Antonio Raíllo’s goal in an anecdote in the final stretch of a match that allowed the Barça team to stay in second position, with an advantage of two and five points over Sevilla and Atlético de Madrid, respectively.
Barça returned to the Camp Nou, a cursed temple in the last three games against Eintracht Frankfurt, Cádiz and Rayo Vallecano. And he did it without Dembélé, limping on the bench due to tonsillitis. Xavi surprised with a lineup without pure wingers, something that had rarely happened since his arrival at the Camp Nou bench.
Memphis was placed on the left and Piqué, who in the last three defeats had not played due to adductor discomfort, in the defensive axis. The Barcelona central defender lasted 28 minutes on the pitch, but his hierarchy was thanked by his team against a Mallorca team that visited the Camp Nou with up to five changes in the line-up.
Despite this, Mexican Javier Aguirre’s team was brave in the first half hour of play. Aware that he was visiting the “dentist”, as his coach joked in the previous one, he set up a defensive line of five players, knowing at all times what to do with the ball when he managed to snatch it from Barça.
The first clear chance came from the locals, in a shot with Aubameyang’s head that Sergio Rico rejected. Barça had a hard time connecting with their interiors -DeJong and Gavi- and based everything on the lateral centers. That’s how Araujo’s goal was disallowed for offside in one of the few accurate services from the sideline.
Mallorca was waiting for its moment in a transition. And, in these, he had the first in the boots of Fernando Niño who finished off a too powerful assist from Bryan Oliván to the clouds.
Mallorca forgave and Barcelona took advantage of it to open the scoring. Memphis, the best player of Xavi’s in the first half, drew a diagonal to the left, beat his defender and caught a deep assist from Jordi Alba to beat Sergio Rico (1-0, min.25) .
Barça’s top scorer this season, with 13 goals, gave his team a break, which before the break locked Mallorca in their area, although they lacked precision and had too much precipitation in the last meters to go into the break with a better result favorable.
Barça came out of the locker room with a different face. He moved the ball with more speed, De Jong and Gavi appeared more frequently in the interior corridors and the forwards reached the Mallorca area more easily, which took the water out of the boat as best it could.
But the one who finished knocking down the wall of Mallorca was not a striker, but Sergio Busquets. The captain caught a ball in the front, made his marker dizzy and crossed a shot that propelled Barça towards the long-awaited victory. But over and above the result, Barça recovered their best football in the first 20 minutes of the second half, the one that fueled LaLiga’s distant dream after 0-4 at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Memphis, reminiscent of the first league games, liked his dribbles, De Jong, questioned in recent defeats, displayed his stride in the core, and Ferran Torres came out of his lethargy participating in a goal that did not go up on the scoreboard for offside.
The match was only missing the announced return of Ansu Fati after receiving medical discharge. The Hispanic-Guinean played the last 15 minutes of the game. He had little participation but he deserved several ovations from his fans.
Aware that his battle for permanence will be played in the next four days, Aguirre moved the bench and revitalized his team, who advanced lines to squeeze Barça when the ball came out. His bravery was rewarded. With ten minutes to go, Raíllo caught a free kick served by Salva Sevilla with his thigh. Barça did not hesitate to close the long-awaited victory.