Barcelona’s new era gets off to a slow start as Lewandowski and Raphinha are ruled out in goalless draw
BARCELONA — Xavi’s new signings couldn’t make a difference against Rayo Vallecano in their Camp Nou opener which ended 0-0. Barcelona dominated the game in possession and the chances created, but Rayo held on to earn a draw.
ESPN’s Sam Marsden has the reaction from Camp Nou.
JUMP TO: Player Ratings | Better/worse performers | Highlights & Moments | Postgame Quotes | Key Statistics | Upcoming meetings
Barcelona’s new era starts slowly
Barcelona’s bright new future began on Saturday with a goalless draw at home to Rayo Vallecano. It was, at least, better than the two 1-0 defeats they suffered against the same opposition last season.
It was supposed to be different this time. Since losing to Rayo in April, Barca have spent over €150m on new players. Three of their five new signings started here after most signed up for La Liga just 24 hours before kick-off. Jules Kounde, however, watched from the stands. Barca don’t have enough salary space yet to register the defender.
Robert Lewandowski was saved and he led the line, flanked in attack by fellow new signings Raphinha and Ousmane Dembele, but neither of them could find a way past Stole Dimitrievski in the visitor’s goal. When Lewandowski beat him at the start of the first half, the flag went up.
Substitute Franck Kessie also had a goal ruled out for offside, while Sergio Busquets and Dembele were both disallowed by Dimitrievski. When the chances presented themselves to Raphinha, he missed the mark.
The pre-match optimism of the 81,000 Camp Nou fans turned to whistles in the second half as Dimitrievski wasted time at every opportunity. Barca players also grew frustrated. Busquets received a late red card for a second booking.
There was also almost a sting in the tail for the hosts, with Rayo creating his own chances. Luckily for Barca, goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen was in fine form to ensure he didn’t suffer a third successive loss to Andoni Iraola’s side.
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Barca’s attack may take time
It was perhaps unrealistic to expect Barca’s new attack to click straight away. Xavi has incredible depth at his disposal, but throughout pre-season he has shown a preference for Lewandowski, Raphinha and Dembele. Ansu Fati, Ferran Torres, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Memphis Depay are waiting in the wings. They may not all stay beyond the transfer window.
Raphinha shone in pre-season but wasted her best chances against Rayo. Dembele was blowing hot and cold. Lewandowski tried to push the team forward, but nothing really fell for him. There was no instant connection between the three. Substitute Ansu provided as much as a spark when he came on, while Aubameyang saw a late chance cleared from the line.
It took until January of their first season together for Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez to really take off. Let’s see how fast Xavi can get that frontline in shape.
Rayo show credentials
Rayo finished 12th last season in his first year back in the top flight and showed against Barca on Saturday that he was ready to fight again despite having one of the smallest budgets in the league.
Iraola is a fantastic young coach and he has talented players, even if he doesn’t have a penny to spend. Isi Palazon and Oscar Trejo were fun to watch at Camp Nou but it was the form and understanding of the team that won them the point.
It’s been three games in a row since they have ruled out Barca. Luis Suarez’s 2019 goal was the Catalan’s last against Rayo. It’s not a matter of luck. It’s in Iraola.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen 7; Araujo 6, Christensen 6, Eric Garcia 7, Alba 5; Busquets 6, Pedri 6, Gavi 6; Raphinha 5, Lewandowski 6, Dembele 6
Subtitles: De Jong 7, Roberto 6, Ansu 6
Ray : Dimitrievsky 8; Balliu 7, Lejeune 7, Catena 7, Fran Garcia 7; Ciss 6, Lopez 6; Isi Palazon 7, Trejo 7, Alvaro Garcia 6; Camello 6
Subtitles: Falcao 6, Ponce 6, Pozo 6, Valentin 6
Best and Worst Performers
The home fans were tired of seeing him because of his wasted time, but his shot save earned Rayo a point. He made six total saves on a memorable opening day for Rayo.
WORSE: Jordi Alba
No one deserves too much criticism for Barca’s dropped points but left-back Jordi Alba was perhaps the player furthest from his best. He’s usually an integral part of his team’s attack, but he hasn’t advanced enough or bonded well with those before him.
Highlights and Moments
Andoni Iraola hasn’t lost to Barcelona during his tenure as Rayo Vallecano manager.
Rayo Vallecano by Andoni Iraola.
Matches against Barcelona: 3.
Games won: 2
Games lost: 0
Goals conceded: 0
— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) August 13, 2022
Busquets was sent off in added time, his first dismissal in a La Liga game.
Sergio Busquets was sent off for a second yellow card after this game against Falcao. pic.twitter.com/D92kRdZ9Zl
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) August 13, 2022
Lewandowski couldn’t find the back of the net in his La Liga debut at Camp Nou.
Time is running out for Barcelona who have now missed a myriad of chances against Rayo Vallecano.
After the game: What managers, players said
“I understand the disappointment, the expectations are really high. We will have to analyze the game, improve and continue to believe in the game model. Rayo defended well. It was more difficult for us to create [chances] than usual. It’s a shame because we wanted to show the fans that we are on the right track. It’s disappointing, but we ask for patience.” – Barca coach Xavi
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
Barcelona: The last time they went three consecutive league games without scoring against the same opponent was against Atletico Madrid in 2020-21; before that, they had not gone three consecutive meetings without scoring against an opponent since playing four in a row against Real Oviedo in 1989-91.
Barcelona: They will travel to Real Sociedad on August 21 before playing a friendly against Premier League champions Manchester City on August 24, followed by a home La Liga game against Valladolid on August 28.
Rayo Vallecano: Rayo travel to Espanyol on August 19, then host Mallorca on August 27 before traveling to Osasuna on September 4.