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Barça may have been in complete control from start to finish against Málaga on Saturday afternoon, but they failed to turn any of that supremacy into goals and are left to dwell on what might have been. The scoreboard remained unmoved, with the Andalusians’ defensive intensity and some outstanding goalkeeping from Carlos Kameni denying the Catalans the chance to temporarily move to the top of the Liga table.
With Luis Suárez suspended and Leo Messi’s unexpected absence through illness, the two prongs that joined Neymar Jr in Barça’s attacking trident were Arda Turan and Paco Alcácer. But anyone who expected the changes to unnerve the home side was soon proved wrong as the Catalans powered off the blocks. The game was just ten minutes old when a host of Barça chances had included Alcácer having a goal disallowed, and Gerard Piqué both hitting the post and forcing a fine save from Málaga keeper Kameni.
La Masia product Sandro did manage a couple of long-range pokes for the visitors, but with over 80% possession, it was Barça all the way. All that was missing was the goal, which Rafinha looked to have finally delivered on the half hour, but Kameni’s save was as good as any that we have seen at the Camp Nou this year.
Everything but the goal
Juande Ramos had clearly ordered his charges to sit back and defend, and as the half progressed they seemed to be getting better and better at swallowing up the Barça pressure. However, thus far Luis Enrique had no cause for alarm. His side were well in control, and although Ramos was the only coach happy that the 83,439 spectators had yet to see a goal in the first 45 minutes, there was time enough to set that situation right.
But the second half began as the first had ended, with intense Barça pressure going unrewarded. In fact, with half an hour left it was Málaga who had come closest when Juankar beat Ter Stegen but found the angle to tight to finish the move.
Málaga down to ten
The 68th minute might have been the game-changer. Diego Llorente’s reckless lunge into Neymar didn’t seem to involve any intention to play the ball and that’s exactly how the referee interpreted the action. A red card was the only answer and Málaga were down to ten men.
Now the game really was there for the taking. But although Barça now had a freer rein than ever in midfield, the intensity in the Málaga rearguard became fiercer than ever. The ball might have been dancing all around the visitors' area, but Kameni, yellow shirts or the referee’s whistle always seemed to get there first.
Hearts were pounding all around the stadium as the game went into injury time, while the home side continued to pound the Málaga defence. It had all been in vain before Neymar looked to have come to the late rescue, but that man Kameni was there again to deny what had looked like a certain winner.
With the emotions charged into overdrive, Málaga had a second man ordered off when Juankar uttered something ineloquent to the referee.The final seconds were more like pinball than football as the ball bounded everywhere in the Málaga penalty area. Everywhere that was apart from Kameni’s goal. When the final whistle brought an end to the proceedings, this had clearly been an opportunity lost for Barça.
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