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The first half was dull. The second was non-stop action. Two highly contrasting 45 minutes but with one thing in common. Neither produced any goals, and although Barça remain unbeaten in La Liga, tonight’s game in Cádiz was the third draw in five games.
It was game in which Barça, and Memphis in particular, had by far the most of the chances. And Ter Stegen was outstanding whenever the home side did threaten.
But just as Barça were settling into their best football, Frenkie de Jong was lost for a second bookable offence. Losing the Dutchman clearly conditioned the remainder of the game, and all Culers can do now is dwell on what might have been.
Gavi’s first start
When Sergiño Dest fired over the bar after just three minutes, one may have predicted we were in for a rollercoaster ride, but that turned out to be the only real chance of the first half.
Barça were getting almost all of the ball, and Dest himself was especially creative down the left wing, but they were up against a Cádiz side that without doing much of their own in the attacking department were managing to hold out very strongly and limited the Catalans to little more than the occasional half-chance.
Another of Barça’s standout players was proving to be Gavi, belying his youthful age in his first ever Liga start by playing some of the most mature looking football on the park.
Up a notch
What Barça were missing was intensity, and after the break we got it. Perhaps Ter Stegen’s brilliant save to deny Negredo, the home side’s first shot of the game, was the wake-up call the game needed.
Because Barça were suddenly rolling. Memphis, quiet in the first half, was now all over the place, failing to connect with his first real chance and shortly after being frustrated by a spectacular save from Ledesma.
De Jong off
But just when Barça had the game by the scruff of the neck, the task was made all the more difficult when they were reduced to ten men. Frenkie de Jong was booked twice in almost immediate succession, the second of the two yellow cards looking particularly harsh, and he was off for an early shower.
Naturally, the red card totally changed the dynamic of the game and Cádiz were keen to seize the moment, and had Barça’s backs against the wall for much of the last quarter of an hour.
Salvi in particular had every chance to edge his side into the lead but Ter Stegen again showed his brilliance.
Never give up
Barça found new verve for the final minutes… Like a basketball match it was one attack one way followed by another attack in the other. Chance after chance fell to both team, the best ones again falling to Memphis, and Ronald Koeman ended up being red carded amidst the rising tension…
Either side could have scored but ultimately neither did. All told, Barça were clearly the better of the two sides, but this was one of those days when the ball just didn’t want to go in.
Next up, it’s Levante on Sunday at 4.15pm CEST.
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