Normally, it requires a Hérculean effort to defeat FC Barcelona at the Nou Camp and that too without conceding a goal. Hércules did just that! And it would be highly unjust if their achievement isn’t appreciated. Come what may, this victory will go down in the history of the Blanquiazules as one of their greatest ever. In fact this isn’t the first time that the Alicante side has beaten the Catalans. Back in 1997, Hércules defeated FC Barcelona in both the league matches – 2-1 at José Rico Pérez and 3-2 at Nou Camp.
Albeit, this is just the beginning of the new season but for a team which boasts of one of the best attacks in the world, a defeat at home, that too without finding the back of the net, is the last thing that fans can expect.
Josep Guardiola fielded a team devoid of players like – Xavi, Busquets, Pedro and Dani Alves. Captain Puyol was also recuperating from an injury. Mascherano was handed his league debut. Despite this, with a first XI comprising of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, David Villa amongst others along with the Nou Camp faithful, it wasn’t too difficult to imagine three points. Esteban Vigo and his boys had other plans for the Catalan faithful. Recently promoted Hércules had added sheen to their squad by signing a striker of David Trezeguet’s calibre. Dutchman Royston Drenthe and Paraguayan Nelson Valdez were brought in to give more attacking options. The Blanquiazules three summer signings had a match to remember whereas the three Catalan summer signings had a home debut to forget.
The home side started well with the lion’s share of possession but were unable to break the visitor’s defense. Hércules meanwhile made the most of their first realistic chance. Nelson Valdez put the visitors ahead because of some shabby defending by the home side. Nonetheless, the finishing was quite decent. Barcelona stepped up and Pique came close to scoring an important equalizer. Mascherano looked out of sorts in his first match, making it quite clear that the Argentine captain needs some time to get into the groove. He picked up a yellow card on his debut as early as in the 20th minute. Adriano was slotted in to replace his compatriot, but he surely lacked the bludgeoning capability of Alves.
The visitor’s Back Four were all on the wrong side of thirty, but they formed an excellent cohesive unit to deny the Catalans. Midfield pivots Matias Fritzler and Abel Aguilar too provided excellent support. The Hérculanos custodian too had a fabulous game making some very crucial saves. Nelson Valdez, the Paraguayan International completed his brace 13 minutes into the second half with a superb build up and a well taken shot from just inside the box. Gerard Pique’s regular forays into the opposition’s box showed how desperately the home team wanted to utilize the aerial route. From a Barcelona point of view, their Plan B is still missing from the scheme of things.
Barcelona’s midfield lynchpin Xavi is yet to play a full game. The reason behind him not playing for the full 90 minutes isn’t known but Catalan fans might just have a reason or two to worry about their favourite son. Having achieved EVERYTHING, is the Spaniard on the verge of a burn-out? Well, this is too early in the season for such a question; nonetheless this is a concern serious enough to bother the fans.
Pep Guardiola has always been accused of being tactically weak and that this weakness has been camouflaged by the abundance of talent. How far this is true will be tested this season as teams all over Europe have studied FC Barcelona like we did our nursery rhymes. This aberrant loss might not be a reason to be worried because last time FC Barcelona lost during the initial phases of the Spanish League was against yet another newly promoted side Numancia, back in 2008-09 but the end-season saw them as eventual champions.
The Catalan’s won’t mind this shunt at the end of the season if they can repeat their 2008-09 heroics.
Let us all hope that History repeats itself.