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Barça did everything and more to avoid it, but have tumbled to a 2-1 defeat in Andalusia that leaves them 12 points adrift of the top of the table. Cádiz took an early lead, but no sooner had the Catalans deservedly managed to get back on level terms, a freak goal at the other end meant they were playing catch-up again.
The blaugrana battled hard to at least salvage a point, but chance and after chance went begging on another frustrating road trip.
It was all Barça from the off, but after 8 minutes Cádiz took an unexpected lead from a corner. Oscar Mingueza very nearly headed into his own net, but much as Ter Stegen’s fingertips prevented that from happening, Alvaro Gimenez was straight on the ball to put the Andalusians ahead.
There were plenty of chances to quickly get back on level terms, and Barça would have done exactly that had it not been for the unorthodox but highly effective goalkeeping of Jeremias Ledesma.
Barça had not done much wrong. But Cádiz, playing top flight football for the first time in a decade a half, know how to play football too. Their recent victory at Real Madrid was clearly no fluke, and they were still leading this one 1-0 at the break.
The restart brought more of the same. Barça were in total command, but Cádiz were still holding on tight and causing the odd concern on the counter. Barça needed to find something, and in the end that something was a stroke of fortune.
Jordi Alba was sending a trademark killer mass into the 6-yard box, but it just nicked Pedro Alcalá’s foot on the way, just enough to confound Ledesma and finally get the ball in the back of the net. It was no less than Barça deserved and that was 1-1.
Cádiz back ahead
The celebrations were short-lived. Moments later, Cádiz regained their lead in exasperating fashion. Jordi Alba served a defensive throw-in to Clement Lenglet, but following an unfortunate mix-up between the Frenchman and Ter Stegen, Alvaro Negredo couldn’t believe his luck.
The Cádiz substitute helped himself to the ball and converted into an empty net.
The final minutes were as nerve-racking as football can get. Barça hurled forwards in search of an equaliser. Leo Messi was everywhere, while Sergiño Dest and Miralem Pjanic came closest.
But buoyed by their goal, Cádiz were playing their liveliest football yet. There was no longer a pattern. This was raw passion in both directions: Cádiz chasing a famous win, their first at home this season, and Barça desperate to avoid a defeat that would put a serious dent in their title challenge.
They started the day nine points adrift of leaders Atlético Madrid. The difference is now twelve. The task is harder than ever, but if there’s any team that never stops believing, then that team is Barça. It’s only December. There’s still a long, long way to go…
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