Barcelona 3-2 Almeria: Sergi Roberto's double spares Xavi's blushes

Barcelona 3-2 Almeria: Sergi Roberto’s double spares Xavi’s blushes after basement boys twice peg his team back… as Barca keep in touch with LaLiga top two Girona and Real Madrid

  • Barcelona moved within six points of leaders Girona after hard-fought victory
  • Rock bottom Almeria twice pegged them back before Sergi Roberto winner
  • REVEALED on It’s All Kicking Off: Man United’s January transfer window plans… and how the Sir Jim Ratcliffe takeover will impact them 

Sergi Roberto scored twice as Barcelona managed a narrow 3-2 win against bottom club Almeria that will ease talk of crisis as the fly to Dallas to play Mexican side America on Thursday.

The club had scheduled the money-spinning game for just hours after their last league game of 2023 and it would have been a long trip to the Cotton Bowl Stadium had they slipped up again.

Instead, in front of just 34,471, they turned half time whistles into cheers with a spirited second half performance.

Roberto had been the surprise name on Xavi’s teamsheet drafted into midfield in the absence of the suspended Frenkie de Jong and the lack of faith in Oriol Romeu. 

He had the first chance of the game with a free header but Luis Maximiano saved at full stretch.

Sergi Roberto celebrates Barcelona’s late winner in an unexpectedly tough match 

Rock bottom Almeria twice pegged Barca back before Sergi Roberto settled it late on

It was a match Barcelona could ill-afford to drop points in with Girona and Real Madrid above them in the LaLiga title race

Your browser does not support iframes.

Barcelona are always likely to concede chances early in games and Almeria had theirs on 12 minutes but Joao Cancelo blocked Largie Ramazani’s shot. 

Andreas Christensen then risked a red card when he pulled down Sergio Arribas as he sprinted clear. 

The fact that Ronald Araujo might have sprinted across to close down the Almeria forward saved the Dane from a straight red.

Barcelona’s slow start brought whistles from another desperately low crowd inside the Olympic Stadium but Raphinha put reacted by putting the home side ahead. 

Ronald Araujo headed a corner down and Baba had left the Brazilian all alone to sweep it in. He then celebrated by putting his fingers in his ears.

It should have been two shortly afterwards but Maximiano made another brilliant save this time from Robert Lewandowski turning away the Pole’s low shot. 

Sergi Roberto revs up the crowd at the Stadio Olimpico after restoring Barcelona’s lead

Having taken the lead for the second time, Barca expected to push on but were pegged back

Barcelona coach Xavi looks dismayed on the sidelines as his side struggle against Almeria 

Match facts 

Barcelona (4-3-3): Pena; Cancelo, Araujo, Christensen (Kounde 46), Balde; Lopez (Romeu 67), Gundogan, Sergi Roberto; Raphinha (Yamal 76), Lewandowski, Felix (Torres 46)

Substitutes not used: Astralaga, Casado, Kochen, Cubarsi, Hernandez, Gulu, Fort, Prim

Coach: Xavi Hernandez

Scorers: Raphinha 33; Sergi Roberto 60, 83 Booked: Christensen, Araujo

Almeria (5-3-2): Maximiano; Pozo (Mendes 64), Chumi, Montes, Gonzalez, Akieme; Baba, Lopy, Ramazani (Embarba 77); Arribas, Baptistao (Lazaro 77)

Substitutes not used: Marino, Fernandes, A. Martinez, F. Martinez, Centelles, Ocana, Fettal, Sanca

Coach: Gaizka Garitano

Scorers: Baptistao 41; Gonzalez 71 Booked: Pozo, Lopy, Baba 

Referee: Guillermo Cuadra Fernández Attendance: 34,471

That miss seemed to lift Almeria and they were level just before the break when Leo Baptistao broke clear to score past Inaki Pena. 

The flag was raised in error and VAR over-ruled the decision to mean it was 1-1 at the break – cue more whistles as the players went off at half-time.

Xavi reacted with two changes for the second half. Ferran Torres replaced Joao Felix, the cautioned Christensen was replaced by Jules Kounde. 

Torres made an immediate impact drawing two quick saves from Maximiano. 

The first was from an intelligent flick from Lewandowski. 

The Almeria keeper then saved from a fierce Lewandowski shot.

Finally Barcelona were back in front and it was simple when it came. Raphinha curled in a corner and Roberto sent it past Maximiano with a glancing header. 

They had been lucky to get the corner because the last touch was from Alejandro Balde.

Once captain Roberto had settled the nerves it should have been easy but Lewandowski spurned another opportunity and again they paid for the miss because Barcelona conceded again – it was their 21st goal against, one more than in all of last season.

Keeper Pena came for a cross but with Araujo backing into him he dropped onto Edgar’s toe and the Almeria centre-back made it 2-2. 

Almeria celebrate after Edgar Gonzalez hauls them level in the game for the second time

Raphinha celebrates after firing Barcelona into a 33rd-minute lead at the Estadio Olimpico

The goal, just after the half-hour mark, was just what Barcelona needed as they sought a win

But bottom of the table Almeria equalised just eight minutes later through Leo Baptistao

Baptistao gets the better of the Barcelona back line and goalkeeper Inaki Pena to equalise


It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football, with a show every Monday and Thursday this season.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube , Apple Music and Spotify

Your browser does not support iframes.

Barcelona should have retaken the lead but again Lewandowski’s aim was off. His diving headache effectively cleared Cancelo’s clever cross. He clattered into the post in the process; nothing is going for Barcelona’s number nine.

He kept going though and with seven minutes left he set up the winner with a divine pass into Roberto who got his second goal of the night.

Almeria kept pushing for a third goal and when Baba headed goalwards it looked as though they might have a third equaliser but Pena made amends for his earlier error with the save that sealed the win.

Barcelona forward Robert Lewandowski stretches to control the ball in the air against Almeria

Ferran Torres forces a fingertip save from the Almeria goalkeeper Luis Maximiano 

Ferran Torres gets a shot away despite pressure from Sergio Akieme in the second period

Source: Read Full Article