Martino defends team and Messi after narrow win
Madrid – FC Barcelona coach Tata Martino once again had to answer questions over the style of football practiced by his team and Lionel Messi’s form following their 1-0 win over local rivals Espanyol in the Spanish La Liga.
Barcelona dominated possession against Espanyol but struggled to create scoring chances against a rival which was content to spread two lines of players across the pitch and defend the initial 0-0 scoreline Friday night, reports Xinhua.
It needed a solitary goal from Alexis Sanchez, his seventh of the season so far, to assure the points remained in the Camp Nou and although the win means Barca have now taken 34 points from a possible 36, doubts remain over the style of play employed by Martino given that it lacks the fluidity practiced under previous coaches, Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova.
“We were slow moving the ball around,” admitted Martino in the press Saturday morning. “We also left a lot of space between our attacks but in the second half we were more incisive. It was a correct performance against a rival that worked very well in defence,” he said.
Although he was forced to admit that it had been one of his team’s worst displays of the season at home.
The game saw Messi end up without scoring for the fourth consecutive time, something which had not happened since 2011 and the Argentine turned in another display in which he looked to be off the pace and lacking confidence in his sprints, but with a home game against AC Milan in the Champions League this week the coach insisted he was not worried.
“He is the most important player in a team of stars, he plays and he offers us everything. I don’t see him looking worried and what is happening at the moment is pure coincidence. I don’t see him looking desperate, he shot with intent but without fortune and he has set the bar so high in the past that sometimes it is hard to beat that,” commented Martino.
While Messi has been off colour the creativity and goals have been provided by Neymar and Alexis.
Martino expressed his satisfaction with Alexis’ form describing him as “exceptional,” while he said that Neymar, who was probably Barca’s best player on the night, was “another option that we have and will be a key factor, just like the rest of his companions.