No fans present as Barça win

Camp Nou match played be­hind closed doors af­ter ref­er­en­dum un­rest

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Soccer - Ben Fisher

Barcelona con­tin­ued their 100 per cent start to life in La Liga in bizarre cir­cum­stances, beat­ing Las Pal­mas 3-0 at an empty Camp Nou. The Cata­lan club had asked for the match to be post­poned due to protests in the city over Cat­alo­nia’s in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum, in which more than 460 peo­ple have been in­jured.

That re­quest was re­jected and Barcelona, threat­ened with a six-point de­duc­tion ac­cord­ing to club pres­i­dent Josep Maria Bar­tomeu, took the de­ci­sion to play the match be­hind closed doors just 20 min­utes be­fore kick-off, leav­ing thou­sands stranded out­side.

“Els Mos­sos [the Cata­lan po­lice force] told us the game could be played nor­mally,” Bar­tomeu said. “Play­ing this way, with the sta­dium empty, the club shows its dis­agree­ment [with the de­ci­sion not to post­pone the game]. ”

Las Pal­mas had the national flag em­broi­dered on to their shirts to show their sup­port for a united Spain while Barcelona emerged for the warm-up wear­ing the colours of the Este­lada flag as­so­ci­ated with Cata­lan in­de­pen­dence.

The match re­sult en­sured Barcelona earned a sev­enth league win in as many games, record­ing their 1,000th La Liga clean sheet. Ernesto Valverde’s side have now scored 23 goals this term, con­ced­ing just twice.

Barcelona started slowly and Las Pal­mas dom­i­nated much of the first half. Jonathan Cal­leri rat­tled the post three min­utes be­fore the in­ter­val af­ter good work by Ous­sama Tan­nane, who un­selfishly laid the ball off. But at half­time Valverde in­tro­duced An­drés Ini­esta and Ivan Rakitic in place of Aleix Vi­dal and Paulinho.

Ef­fort re­warded

Barcelona be­gan the sec­ond pe­riod with much more in­tent and were re­warded for their ef­forts af­ter 49 min­utes, with Ser­gio Bus­quets glanc­ing home at the front post from Messi’s cor­ner.

Then Barça grew in stature, with Rakitic twice see­ing his shots blocked by Mauri­cio Le­mos, the Las Pal­mas de­fender. But Messi came up with the cru­cial sec­ond goal, round­ing the goal­keeper Le­an­dro Chichizola with ease af­ter latch­ing on to De­nis Suárez’s re­v­erse ball. Seven min­utes later the game was over, with Messi start­ing and fin­ish­ing a slick move that saw him score his 14th goal of the season.

Af­ter Rakitic fed Luis Suárez, the Barcelona for­ward flicked the ball with his first touch in to the path of Messi, who tucked the ball home.

In the late game, Real Madrid earned their first home league vic­tory of the season by beat­ing Es­panyol 2-0 with a goal in each half by Isco.

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