Five strokes of luck from Xavi’s first three matches as Barcelona coach
The Xavi Hernández era at Barcelona is now three games old and the Blaugrana have won two and drawn one of their matches since the former captain took over as head coach. After defeating Espanyol 1-0 and drawing 0-0 with Benfica, Barça went away to Villarreal on Saturday night and earned a 3-1 victory in what was a dramatic match.
There was some luck involved as Barcelona took the three points, just as there also was in the other two matches played so far with Xavi in the dugout. Here comes a look at five instances of good fortune from Xavi’s first week.
1. Memphis' penalty against Espanyol
The first goal of the Xavi era came from the penalty spot, as Memphis Depay converted a spot kick in the Catalan derby that he himself had won. Leandro Cabrera went for the ball and the Dutch forward went down, but few outside of the officiating team thought the incident should have been a penalty. Espanyol striker Raúl de Tomás certainly didn’t agree, calling it “a joke of a penalty”. It was given, though, and was enough for that 1-0 victory.
2. RDT denied by the woodwork
Raúl de Tomás was angry about the penalty, while he also left the Camp Nou frustrated by his lack of luck in front of goal. The Espanyol striker hit the woodwork twice against Barcelona, with a freekick and a header coming ever so close to rippling the back of Marc-André ter Stegen’s net. Those matters of inches, plus Landry Dimata’s wasted headed opportunity, helped Xavi’s side hold on for that win.
3. Seferovic’s sitter
In Xavi’s second match in charge, Barcelona were the better team against Benfica and were pushing for victory in the final stages. They committed so many men forward, though, that Benfica were granted a late counter-attacking chance and Haris Seferovic seemed to have done the hard part by rounding Ter Stegen. But, he fired wide for a miss that coach Jorge Jesus said might have been the worst he’d seen in three decades of coaching.
Dimata missing a sitter. Seferovic missing an even bigger sitter. Villarreal's defence giving gifts. Xavi sure is benefitting from fortune so far.— Andy West (@andywest01) November 27, 2021
4. Two penalties not given at Villarreal
Barcelona won another penalty against Villarreal in Xavi’s third game, a 3-1 win, but that foul on Philippe Coutinho was clear and uncontroversial. What was fortunate from a Barcelona point of view was the fact that two possible Villarreal penalties had been waved away before that. A Gerard Piqué handball in the first half and an Eric García bear hug of Raúl Albiol in the second went unpunished, much to the fury of the Villarreal bench.
Emery: I was watching at home and thought (Barca’s penalty vs Espanyol) wasn’t a pen. You understood Espanyol’s anger. But today’s (Pique handball not given for Villarreal) was even worse— Samuel Marsden (@samuelmarsden) November 27, 2021
5. Estupiñán’s error
Barcelona’s go-ahead goal against Villarreal came from a poor header from the Yellow Submarine’s left-back Pervis Estupiñán. As the Ecuadorian tried to head the ball back to his goalkeeper, he misjudged it entirely and allowed Memphis Depay to collect in a dangerous position, with the Dutchman finishing well to make it 2-1, as Barça went on to collect the 3-1 victory.
It has, then, certainly been an entertaining first week of Xaviball. He has two wins and a draw so far, with some good fortune along the way. Barcelona fans will hope that lasts for a while, at least until the do-or-die date with Bayern Munich in the Champions League.