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FC Barcelona succumbed to their first defeat of the season at the hands of newly-promoted Alavés in a frustrating evening at Camp Nou (1-2).
Jeremy Mathieu cancelled out Deyverson’s opener, but Ibai Gomez’s solo effort handed the visitors a surprise victory at the home of the Catalans.
There were seven changes to the side that defeated Athletic Club at San Mames two weeks earlier, including debuts for Jasper Cillessen and Paco Alcácer, while Leo Messi and Luis Suárez dropped to the bench.
It was a cagey start to the match, with no clear chances for either side early on. Barça looked to impose themselves on the Basques, but the visitors were making it tough with ten men behind the ball.
While Barça dominated possession, the opening effort on target came from Alavés, but it was a comfortable first save for Cillessen as a Barça keeper. Barça broke quickly up the other end, which almost ended with an own goal in the home team’s favour.
Alavés had drawn their opening two league games of the season, one of which was at the Vicente Calderon against Atlético Madrid, and those at the Camp Nou were beginning to realise why.
On 32 minutes, Neymar’s clever free-kick picked out Aleix Vidal on the opposing corner of the area whose strike needed to be tipped over by the keeper.
Though chances were not coming thick and fast for Barça, few in the stadium expected the away side to be the ones to break the deadlock, but on 38 minutes, that was exactly what happened. A fine cross from Kike was attacked well at the near post and guided in by Deyverson.
Barça almost found the perfect response when Mascherano picked out Neymar in the box with a fine cross, but the Brazilian was left holding his head in his hands as his effort went well wide.
Perfect start to the second half
What the team failed to manage in the opening 45 minutes, they did so in the first two minutes of the second period. Neymar’s outswinging corner was met by Mathieu who leapt highest to draw Barça level.
Moments later, the same player had the chance to score a surprise brace, but somehow managed to steer the ball wide from just five yards out.
Alavés thought they had regained the lead in the first seven minutes of a frantic start to the half, but the goal was ruled out for offside.
Messi comes on but Ibai steals the show
Luis Enrique brought on Leo Messi on the hour mark in attempt to rescue the situation, but just when it was beginning to look as though there would only be one winner, Barça were caught off guard. Ibai Gomez battled to win the ball in Barça’s area before weaving through the defence and slotting calmly beyond Cillessen for 1-2.
By 67 minutes, Luis Suarez was on too, as Barça looked to throw everything at Fernando Pacheco’s goal in pursuit of another leveller.
Barça had scored six, five and six in their last three league home matches but getting a second was proving an impossible task as the minutes wore on. Barça camped outside the visitors’ box but could not muster a clear chance to swing the tide.
Andres Iniesta, also on as a substitute, could only fire an effort from distance over the bar, as the clock ticked on. Alavés, to their credit, remained loyal to their defensive approach and rarely lost their shape. Mauricio Pellegrini’s astute setup meant that the hosts could not get in-behind their opponents as opposed to Barça simply being wasteful.
Even with the three minutes of added time already up, it seemed as though Barça would at least leave with a point when Lucas Digne cut the ball back to an unmarked Messi. But even the Argentine could not steer Barça level from around ten yards out, and when that happens you just know it was not meant to be.
Barça fall to their first home defeat since the loss by the same scoreline to Valencia on 17 April earlier this year. Luis Enrique’s men have the chance to pick themselves back up in just three days’ time when they host Celtic in the Champions League group stage opener on Tuesday (8.45pm CET).
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