If there is one game that could have ended our perfect start of the season, it was the UWCL tie against Barcelona.
The reigning champions continue to look way ahead of any competition in Europe and that includes us, obviously.
No surprise here, really: they were the better team on paper and confirmed it on the pitch, through their relentless pressure off the ball and superior quality on it. They deservedly won the game and remain the favorite to lift the trophy, at the end of the season.
I wasn’t expecting much from the game, I hoped that we would not be thrashed the same way Chelsea was in last year’s Champions League final and we didn’t: we kept them at 0-0 for half an hour, kept our shape diligently through every wave and resisted as much as we possibly could, before conceding the opener.
Even after that, with Barcelona pushing to wrap the game up as quickly as possible, we kept our heads together and avoided a true carnage.
For comparison, Chelsea were already four goals down by the time Barcelona scored their first, last night. I take it as a good sign in an otherwise disappointing night.
Could have we done better? Could have Jonas Eidevall made different choices, both tactically and in his starting line-up? Maybe, but I’m not sure it would have changed anything.
Of course, Tobin Heath had in impressive cameo when she came on, recording her second assist in the last two games, but nothing really suggests she would have made any difference if she started, especially given the huge amount of pressure we were in the first half.
The players and the coach were unanimous in describing last night as an important lesson for the team and I agree: this is the kind of competition we will face, if we are to win the UWCL, and nothing puts things into the right perspective as a massive spanking like this one. Once you know where you stand and where the opponents are, you can work on countermeasures and adjust your trajectory.
Ours is a very good team, one of the best teams in England and in Europe, but it is not enough to truly challenge for the trophy – unless we make some changes.
I am sure that last night was a very valuable lesson for Jonas Eidevall as well and I am adamant he will treasure the defeat to build for the remainder of our European campaign.
By the looks of it, it will be either us or Hoffenheim for the second place, with Barcelona streets ahead of both teams and Kuge, of course. Assuming that neither one of the remaning teams will take any points off Barcelona, it will be vital to win both matches against Koge and grab at least four points against Hoffenheim – but it’s not going to be easy.
Back to last night, now, as there were some positive notes, too: Manuela Zinsberger saved another penalty and harbors an impressive 100% record, saving every one of the four penalties she faced since she joined (stat from Tim Stillman); Jen Beattie was probably our best defender on the night, which will be a boost for the whole team after her injury; Tobin Heath made a real impact off the bench, confirming how she will be the “points player” she was described as by Jonas Eidevall and the team managed to put up a fight in the second half, going very close with Nikita Parris and then scoring through Frida Maanum. We could have crumbled, we could have stayed passive and wait for the final whistle but we tried to come back into the game, even if that meant being punished on the counter.
The scoreline could have been worse, especially in the first half, but we kept it honorable – all things considered.
I don’t want to sound negative or resigned but the reality is that Barcelona are too strong for anyone, including us, and the game was always going to end like this.
A shovel is just a shovel but their shovel was much more solid and sharp than ours.
We will be back at it on Sunday, at home against Everton in the WSL, before the very important home game against Hoffenheim, on Thursday.
It is going to be a decisive week for our dreams. We move!
Thirty-something Italian, currently in Switzerland. Gooner since mid-ninties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. Twelve years ago I started my own blog (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Debate, don’t insult or you’re out.