No fans present as Barça win
Camp Nou match played behind closed doors after referendum unrest
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.
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.