Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, January 9, 2012

How costly was Barcelona’s draw with Espanyol?

How costly was Barcelona’s draw with Espanyol?
by rick olivares pic by Getty Images

After Real Madrid pasted Getafe 5-1, Barcelona needed a win to stay within three points of the current La Liga leaders. Facing them was local rival Espanyol.

Both the Blaugrana and the Blanquiblaus may be Catalan clubs but when they face each other, Espanyol isn’t going to back down. So it was a tricky match for Pep Guardiola’s side.

And true enough, it was Espanyol that nearly scored first when Joan Verdu attempted a header that Barca keeper Victor Valdes punched out. A quick thinking Gerard Pique who covered the line for Valdes who was out of the play also turned Verdu’s second attempt back.

Minutes later, it seemed that Cesc Fabregas had scored after a simple lay off by Leo Messi who pounced on an idiotic pass by compatriot Cristian Alvarez, Espanyol’s goalkeeper. But referee Javier Alvarez was quick to spot an unintentional handball on Messi.

A few offensive thrusts later, Fabregas finally scored his ninth goal this La Liga campaign off a header from a Dani Alves cross. That reminded me of Chieffy Caligdong’s cross that James Younghusband headed home in the Azkals-UFL Alyansa’s losing effort against a visiting Internacional de Madrid side. The point being no defender should allow an unchallenged cross by an opponent. The goal saw Barcelona finally tale control of the match as they dominated possession. Yet for all of Barca’s trademark control of the midfield, it was Espanyol that had more shots on goal.

I’ve always said that the more shots on goal, one would eventually be liable to commit a mistake on the defensive end. And Espanyols’ efforts paid dividends in the late stages of the match when a Raul Rodriguez cross was allowed to drift into the box. The cross was somewhat short and Espanyol midfielder Thievy Bifouma headed the ball further inside where late sub Alvaro Vazquez was able to head it past Valdez for the equalizer.

All game long, Guardiola warned his side about the wasted chances with a 1-nil lead definitely not safe. The 86th minute equalizer saw the clever Barca manager recoil with pain. Barcelona should have won this when Xavi struck from the inside but Rodriguez batted down his strike with his hands (ala Luis Suarez against Ghana in the 2010 World Cup). That should have been a card and a penalty right there but incredibly the referee and the linesman swallowed their whistle. Guardiola knew right there that the three full points were lost and true enough Espanyol held fast for the 1-1 draw.

How damaging was Vazquez’ goal? Barca, now even Steven with Real Madrid with 17 games played is five points behind. Next week Real Madrid will attempt to pad that lead against Mallorca, one of the squads trying to stave of relegation. Barcelona hopes the home cooking at Camp Nou against middle of the pack Betis -- that has won three straight -- will get them back on track.

How did Espanyol pull of this upset of a draw? They had held Leo Messi mostly in check. And Barcelona had excellent opportunities to add more to their goal total after scoring nine goals in their previous two España Cup matches but their finishing was less than stellar.

Sub-plot: Boorish Espanyol fans were doing monkey chants against Barcelona’s Dani Alves. What’s with these dumbasses? Someone should dump these racist fucks in the middle of Brazil or the Middle East and let’s see how tough they are.

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