Barça first defeat of the season came tonight at Getafe leaving us a worrying six points behind Real Madrid with just two weeks to go before El Clasico. We seemed to be on top for most of the game but we just couldn’t find a way through and then midway through the second half Valera headed in from a poorly defended corner to give Getafe the lead and Barça failed to react to the goal until right at the very end but then Leo Messi was denied by the linesman’s flag and the post which left a very strong feeling that it just wasn’t meant to be our day.
Guardiola made four changes to the team that won in Milan with Alves, Piqué and Maxwell and Alexis replacing Mascherano, Puyol, Keita and Fabregas. This meant we reverted to a defence of four while up front we began with Messi on the right drifting in, Villa in the centre and Alexis on the right. we began brightly enough with Alves finding Villa’s diagonal run but Villa’s shot was saved at the near post by Getafe keeper Moya. this was followed by a couple of corners with Abidal heading over from one of them.
It seemed as if the goal would come sooner or later but perhaps our problem today was that we believed we would score but we did very little to really try and penetrate the Getafe area. Admittedly, the way Getafe packed the space just in and outside their penalty area left us very little room to manoeuvre in and also meant that many of our shots were blocked or deflected. Messi kept drifting inside to try and find a way through leaving the right flank for Alves but our best hope seemed to come from free kicks but neither Messi or Villa could find the target. Our best spell came in the last twenty minutes of the first half when Villa moved to the left allowing Alexis to come inside. Alexis looked very lively for a while first having a shot deflected wide after Messi’s burst through the middle and then on 36 minutes Alexis held the ball up well in the area before knocking the ball back to Messi who quickly fed Alves on the right but Alexis hit his shot wide at the near post when Alves’s low cross came in. There was very little from Getafe but in the 42nd minute an Abidal slip led to a chance for Diego Castro but Alves was quick to get his foot in the way.
There was a need to move up a gear which we failed to do in the second half. We continued to go through the motions but there was not much punch to our attack. Villa headed a Xavi free kick well wide and then when Alves got forward to cross from the right the ball came to Villa at the far post and when he fired a cross/shot back the ball hit a defender and flew out for a corner. In the 56th minute Messi worked a short corner cutting in to shoot but the keeper saved despite a deflection. For some reason Guardiola decided to bring on Keita for Thiago in the 65th minute and there immediately followed the first little period in the second half of Getafe pushing forward and they managed to win a corner on the left, only their second corner of the game. As the outswinger came in there should not have been too much danger but as with the second goal conceded at Bilbao Gerard Piqué misjudged the flight and jumped too early and neither Busquets nor Keita could react as Valera jumped to head past the motionless Valdés.
Guardiola responded by throwing on Pedro and Cuenca but the team failed to react, Pedro managed a couple of efforts without causing Moya too much trouble. As our desperation combined with Getafe’s fighting spirit to make the game scrappier and scrappier the minutes ticked away. Messi had had a very uninspired second half constantly failing to find a way through the middle, but in the dying minutes he came to life but was first denied, quite correctly, by Keita being called marginally offside, and then in the very last minute Messi was put in and seemed sure to find our equalizer only to see his shot bounce out off the far post, the attack continued and Pedro also managed a goalbound shot but Moya leapt across his goal to save.
Sometimes you have to take it on the chin. This game where the small team beats the big team 1-0 has been played many times with the big team dominating play but falling to the small team taking its chance when it came. There is often some luck involved, sometimes there are some dodgy refereeing decisions and there is usually a heroic goalkeeper for the small team. The really sad thing today is that we didn’t really force Moya into very many saves as most of our efforts seemed to hit defenders. We now face the prospect of needing to win at home and away to Madrid this season if we do not want to rely on other teams doing us favours. We didn’t play awfully it was just that sensation of going through the motions, and when you combine that with one poorly defended corner this is what you get. If we play like this at the Bernabeu in two weeks’ time I’m afraid we may find ourselves even further behind before Christmas.
Barça: Valdés 6; Alves 6.5, Piqué 5.5, Abidal 5.5, Maxwell 5.5 (Cuenca m72, 5.5); Xavi 6.5, Busquets 6, Thiago 6.5 (Keita m65, 5.5); Messi 6, Villa 5.5, Alexis 6 (Pedro m72, 6).
Goal: m67 Valera 1-0.
Barça yellow cards: m19 Maxwell, m44 Piqué, m89 Busquets