Xavi: Undeserved win will give Barcelona big morale boost

By Sports Desk November 27, 2021

Xavi believes Barcelona's 3-1 win over Villarreal will give his players a morale boost despite acknowledging their performance did not warrant all three points.

The former Barca midfielder oversaw a 1-0 win over Espanyol last weekend after taking over the reins from Ronald Koeman, but it looked like he would be denied another victory on Saturday when Samuel Chukwueze cancelled out Frenkie de Jong's opener.

Memphis Depay came to Barca's rescue, though, with a vital goal in the 88th minute, before Philippe Coutinho added a third from the penalty spot in stoppage time.

Not only was it Barca's first away win in LaLiga this season, it was also the first time they have won back-to-back games in the competition this term.

The win over Espanyol was followed by a 0-0 draw with Benfica in the Champions League in midweek, and Xavi says the victory at La Ceramica was comfortably the worst his side has played across his first three games in charge.

"It was very even, Villarreal is a great team," he told a media conference. "Of the three games that I have played, it is the one that we have dominated the least and the one that we least deserved to win.

"Today could have ended up as a draw and instead we are leaving with a victory. That is tremendous and gives us a lot of morale.

"It is a spectacular victory that gives us a lot of morale to continue growing. This victory gives us life.

"That game was the minimum required. Belief, attitude, respect for the badge, and hard work; they are the foundations of a team. Today was a victory of team spirit. When we do not play well, we also have to win. We are Barca."

 

Both sides had cause to be frustrated with the officials during a chaotic opening 10 minutes. 

Villarreal midfielder Dani Parejo was fortunate to escape a red card for a shocking early challenge on Sergio Busquets, while Gerard Pique went unpunished for a blatant handball in the penalty area soon after. 

Xavi refused to criticise the officials, though, adding: "In the end, I will not talk about the referees. It is a very difficult job and I will not put myself into it.

"In the end, it is the referee who decides. One day he can help you and another day harm you. It is difficult to be a referee."

Jordi Alba was replaced by Oscar Mingueza in the 71st minute after sustaining an injury, with Xavi revealing the full-back fought through the pain barrier to continue. 

"At half-time it looked like he could not continue, but he has made a brutal effort to carry on," the Barca boss said. "He is an example; he is one of the captains, and he is pushing us forward. Jordi has made an effort until he couldn't take any more."

Related items

  • New York Red Bulls v Charlotte FC: Smith not worried about goalless run New York Red Bulls v Charlotte FC: Smith not worried about goalless run

    Charlotte FC head coach Dean Smith says his team will continue to work on their lack of goal threat as they prepare to travel to New York Red Bulls on Wednesday.

    Charlotte sit seventh in the Eastern Conference, just one point behind the Red Bulls after going unbeaten in their last five matches.

    However, their last two outings have finished 0-0 against LA Galaxy and Philadelphia Union as they managed just six shots on target combined in those games.

    Asked how he approaches a situation like that, Smith said: "We talk openly, review all the games and the fact is that we probably haven't worked the goalkeeper enough.

    "We've spoke about that and what we feel we can do to improve that. We've had chances, and we probably haven't done as well as we could do with those, so that's something we'll continue to work on

    "It's going to be a tough game [against the Red Bulls] because they're a tough team."

    The Red Bulls are coming off a 10-day break after their derby defeat to New York City FC on May 19, and sit fifth in the table.

    Head coach Sandro Schwarz said: "The performance [against NYCFC] wasn't the best, and we weren't able to create chances to score and to get three points.

    "We want more, and we have to improve a lot, but this is normal. We need time, but the mentality, the behaviour, they adapt very quick and very well.

    "We were disappointed to lose the derby game, but that happens. Heads up, we have to come back stronger and take the next opportunity."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    New York Red Bulls – Cameron Harper

    Harper scored New York's lone goal in their last match, his third straight match with a goal. He is the first Red Bulls player to score in three straight regular-season matches since Patryk Klimala in 2021, and the last Red Bulls player to score in four straight league games was Bradley Wright-Phillips in July-August 2017.

    Charlotte – Kristijan Kahlina

    Charlotte have kept clean sheets in five consecutive regular-season matches, the only team to do so in MLS this season. The only team since 2008 to keep a clean sheet in six straight games within a single regular season was New York City FC in May 2022, and Kahlina will be looking to equal that record.

    MATCH PREDICTION: NEW YORK RED BULLS WIN

    The Red Bulls have lost only one of their six all-time meetings with Charlotte in all competitions, a 2-0 road defeat in June 2022. New York have won three of their four home matches against Charlotte (D1), scoring multiple goals in each match, including a 5-2 win in last year's playoffs.

    The Red Bulls are unbeaten in eight straight home matches dating back to last season (W5 D3, incl. playoffs). New York have not had a longer home unbeaten run in MLS play since a nine-match run from August 2018 to March 2019.

    Meanwhile, Charlotte won 1-0 at Chicago in their last away match after a seven-match winless run on the road in all competitions. Charlotte have never recorded back-to-back away wins in all competitions before.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    New York Red Bulls – 53%

    Draw – 23.9%

    Charlotte – 23.1%

  • Philadelphia Union v Toronto FC: Reds keep growing under Herdman Philadelphia Union v Toronto FC: Reds keep growing under Herdman

    Toronto FC head coach John Herdman admits his team still have some growing to do as they travel to Philadelphia Union on Wednesday.

    Despite losing three of their last four MLS games – winning the other 5-1 at home to CF Montreal – Toronto sit sixth in the Eastern Conference on 22 points with a very balanced record.

    They have won seven and lost seven of their league games, drawing the other one, and have both scored and conceded 24 goals.

    After conceding late in their 4-3 loss to Cincinnati, Herdman says his team need to put more work into their defensive side of the game.

    "It's that level of concentration, that level of discipline that championship teams are able to bring to games," Herdman said.

    "Knowing your job and delivering your job in high-pressure moments where you stay concentrated for long periods of time, that was the message [this week].

    "I think collectively as a group they recognized it. And they welcomed it. They know we're growing. They know we’re on a bit of a journey."

    Philadelphia are four points off a final series place in eighth with 18 points and are unbeaten in their last two matches after failing to win any of the previous six.

    Asked about the test his side will face against Toronto, the Union head coach Jim Curtin said they are a "much-improved team.

    "Really well organized, really well coached. A dangerous team."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Philadelphia Union – Daniel Gazdag

    Gazdag has been involved in eight goals (four goals, four assists) in three home matches against Toronto FC, recording multiple goal contributions in each match.

    Toronto FC – Lorenzo Insigne

    After recording two assists against Montreal last week, Insigne had a goal and an assist on Saturday, the second player, along with Federico Bernardeschi, to contribute to multiple goals in consecutive matches for Toronto this season.

    MATCH PREDICTION: PHILADELPHIA UNION WIN

    The Union have won each of their last four home matches against Toronto by a combined score of 16-2. Philadelphia had won just four of their first 11 home matches against the Reds (D3 L4).

    However, the Union have lost four consecutive home matches for the first time in club history. Philadelphia had suffered three defeats in their previous 59 matches at Subaru Park before this run.

    Meanwhile, Toronto nearly drew with FC Cincinnati on Saturday, losing 4-3 to a goal in the third minute of stoppage time. Toronto have drawn only one of their last 36 matches in all competitions dating back to last June (W11 L24).

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Philadelphia Union – 67.7%

    Draw – 18.9%

    Toronto FC – 13.4%

  • Disheartening and gut-wrenching: Price condemns killing of former Boys' Town player Rafiek Thomas Disheartening and gut-wrenching: Price condemns killing of former Boys' Town player Rafiek Thomas

    President of Boys' Town Football Club Andrew Price says he is struggling to come to grip with the brutal slaying of former player Rafiek “Fari” Thomas, who was gunned down at his home  in Denham Town on Tuesday.

    It is reported that about 4:40am, unknown assailants gained access to Thomas’ residence, in the troubled West Kingston community, and shot him several times in his bed. Another man was also injured during the home invasion.

    Thomas, 40, was well-known for his goal scoring exploits in local football, especially during his time at Boys’ Town and Tivoli Gardens. He also represented Harbour View, Waterhouse, and Humble Lion throughout his career, before returning to the Boys’ Town. He scored the match-winning goal for the Collie Smith Drive-based club when they copped the Kingston and St Andrew Football Association (KSAFA) Wray and Nephew Championship last season.

    They retained the title with a penalty shoot-out win over Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) on Sunday, but their celebrations were cut short by the tragic news, which has plunged the football fraternity  into mourning.

    Price expressed condolence to Thomas’s family and friends, as he remembered the player as passionate, inspirational and humble.

    “It is so sad when you hear another life snuffed out through crime and violence in inner city communities. Rafiek Thomas was an inspirational player, very skillful, and a prolific goal scorer. I enjoyed coaching him. He was a gem to coach, always unassuming, humble individual, so I'm taking this very, badly to awake to this type of news after the club's triumphant Sunday night it is just really disheartening and gut-wrenching,” Price said.

    “Such a talented individual; he was always willing to assist, to impress, to guide the youngsters and even at his age, he was still a prolific goal scorer. One of the last goals he scored was a year ago in the finals of the Championship against Constant Spring. So we will remember Rafiek for how passionate he was both on and off the field. It's sad to hear that his life has ended in this tragic manner and it reinforces the need to engage football as a socializing effect in communities,” he added.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.