Today’s match was played behind closed doors as a result of political unrest in Barcelona amid an attempt to hold a referendum on Catalan independence.
Due to the inability of police to guarantee the protection and safety of those who were travelling to the Camp Nou, it has been decided that the match will continue as planned, but without spectators present, after requests to postpone the game were, according to Barca, rejected by the Spanish Football League (LFP).
Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu explained the decision to play at an empty Camp Nou was borne out of solidarity and a “rejection of what has been experienced” as the stadium scoreboard bore the message “Democracia”, featuring an illustration of a ballot box.
It was a slow start from the Catalan club who were kept goalless through the first 45 minutes. Las Palmas showed defensive resilience and organization in their first game under Pako Ayestaran but all that good work was undone in the second half.
Ernesto Valverde’s introduction of Ivan Rakitic and Andres Iniesta at half-time changed the complexion of the game and made Barcelona more confident in possession. From there it was all Barcelona in attack and the chances, and the goals began to flood. It was Sergio Busquets who finally broke the deadlock, scoring his first La Liga goal since the 2014-2015 season. Subsequent finishes from Lionel Messi tripled the score line and Ayestaran was powerless to turn the tides of the match – despite introducing two substitutes after falling behind by three.
For Las Palmas, the score does not match the performance. A Calleri chance which hit the post and a number of great forward moves spurred on by Tannane were not enough and ter Stegen’s goal was not compromised. Pako Ayestaran certainly has his work cut out for him, but there were certainly signs that this Las Palmas side are just underperforming – and not out of their depth.
Barcelona started off well, attacking down the flanks with their advanced full-backs. They were their usual selves in possession – poised and confident.
Sergi Roberto had the first attempt of the match – Leandro Chichizola in the Las Palmas goal holding a low drive.
The surreal nature of the occasion appeared to stifle both teams in the early exchanges before Chichizola pawed a Messi free-kick away from his top corner and got up sharply to deny Luis Suarez on the rebound.
Calleri came close to breaking the deadlock in the 28th minute when a great through-ball to Tannane by Aquilani was pulled back to the penalty spot for Calleri to touch in but a great touch by a Barcelona defender cleared any potential danger.
Paulinho had a golden opportunity to break the deadlock and put Barça on the upfront in the 33rd minute when Sergi Roberto hit the by-line and crossed in a beautiful ball for the Brazilian who was stood right on the penalty spot. He put his header down and to the left of Chichizola’s post.
However, the best chance of the first half fell dramatically in Palmas’ path. In the 43rd minute a fantastic through ball to Tannane from Hernan was pulled back for Calleri who rifles it off ter Stegen’s left post.
Busquets and Alba were carded after complaining to the match official about a yellow card not given to Calleri after a high boot made contact with Sergi Roberto’s face – drawing blood.
Barcelona had their fair share of good attempts, with a superb Messi free-kick only being saved by the outstretched palms of Chichizola on the goal-line. Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto did well to find space behind the Las Palmas full-backs, but have yet to turn those opportunities into goals. The subdued atmosphere impacted the Catalan club’s first-half performance but they find their rhythm without the support of a packed Camp Nou in the second half – courtesy of Iniesta’s and Rakitic’s introduction.
Barcelona dominated the game after the first half and had a flurry of chances with in the first 5 minutes itself. Lionel Messi striked a free-kick from roughly 35m out but once again Chichizola got his hands to the curler and pushed it out of danger.
In the very next minute Rakitic saw his beautiful volley being pushed over the bar by Chichizola. However, Barça soon made amendments for all their missed chances as Busquets scored in the 49th minute to end his 1036-days goal scoring drought.
An in-swinging corner-kick from Lionel Messi was put in an awkward position and Busquets got his head to it before Chichizola got a fist to punch it away and that made the scoreline 1-0.
Messi came astonishingly close to netting Barça’s second goal of the day in the 56th minute when Luis Suarez did fantastically well to keep possession in the box and open himself up to cross the ball across the area for Messi who headed it wide of the goal from 10 yards out.
Messi then came to the fore in typical style with a brace inside the final 20 minutes to increase Barcelona’s advantage over Real Madrid to 10 points before their rivals host Espanyol later on Sunday, although a late injury to Iniesta took some shine off the win.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner seemed to be looking at a fruitless outing as another attempt was deflected past the post but he classily made the points safe.
Denis Suarez’s 70th-minute throughball was inch perfect and Messi majestically danced around Chichizola to net a 10th LaLiga goal of the season.
There was more to come from Messi as he continued a darting run for Rakitic and Luis Suarez to work possession back to him for a trademark finish 13 minutes from time – another inevitable moment of brilliance from Barcelona’s talisman on a day where his on-field heroics were forced to take a backseat in this football-mad city.