Barcelona 3 - 0 Las Palmas: match report
A Sergio Busquets header and a double from Lionel Messi condemned Las Palmas to defeat in an empty Camp Nou. The win moves Barcelona five points ahead of second-placed Sevilla at the top of the LaLiga table, and ten points ahead of Real Madrid. At least, until Zinedine Zidane's side play Espanyol on Sunday evening.
The match took place in the overbearing shadow of unrest in Catalonia surrounding an independence referendum organised by the regional government that was held illegal by national courts. It was an occasion where the football felt hollow, an obligation on a day that had far wider significance beyond the pitch.
In the hours leading up to kick off it was uncertain that the match would be played at all. At around two o'clock reports began to filter out from the Catalan press that Barcelona would unilaterally suspend the match. As the Spanish Football Federation wanted it to go ahead, that course of action would have resulted in a six-point penalty for Barcelona. The teams trotted out to warm up, yet there was no news. Supporters waited outside the gates, unsure of whether the game would go ahead, or whether they would be allowed to watch it.
The Las Palmas assistant manager, David Caneda, told the television cameras that the visiting team were preparing as normal. They had little other choice.
Barcelona ultimately opted to play the match behind closed doors, with the announcement coming less than half an hour before kick off. Club president Josep María Bartomeu clarified that "it wasn't done for security reasons. The safety was fine. We did it because of the exceptional circumstances. In order that the whole world could see what's happened here".
The atmosphere in Camp Nou was surreal and eerie. A cavern of quiet and calm in a city wracked by chaos and violence. Occasional shouts of 'vamos!' and the thud of the football being kicked broke the silence. The referee's whistle sounded more shrill than usual. From where the fans should have been, only faded red seats punctuated by the 'més que un club' ('more than a club') mosaic looked down on the pitch. The word 'democracy' decorated the scoreboard.
The early stages of the match were tentative, as if the lack of energy in the stadium was filtering through to the players. Barcelona had the first clear chance of the match after 21 minutes. Las Palmas goalkeeper Leandro Chichizola flung himself to his left to parry Lionel Messi's free-kick, before scrambling to his feet to deny Gerard Piqué's follow-up shot.
Las Palmas grew in to the match as the first half progressed. The away side, wearing a one-off shirt embroidered with the Spanish flag, threatened Barcelona on the counter-attack. Jonathan Calleri bustled and bothered in attack, while Oussama Tannane was devilish on the right wing.
The two combined for the islanders' best chance just before half time, as Tannane cut the ball back to Calleri from the byline, who thumped the ball against the base of Marc-Andre Ter Stegen's post.
Las Palmas had 55% of possession in the first half. Not since a match against Rayo Vallecano in 2015 had Barcelona had less than 50% of the ball.
Ernesto Valverde made a double substitution at half time, sending on Andrés Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic in the place of Paulinho and Aleix Vidal. That reshuffle had an almost immediate effect, as Sergio Busquets nodded a corner in to the net after 49 minutes. In the absence of a crowd, the sound of polite applause was all that greeted the ripple of the net.
That goal soothed Barcelona, who dominated the remainder of the match. Lionel Messi doubled the lead after 70 minutes. Dennis Suárez threaded the ball to his team-mate with an inch-perfect reverse pass, and Messi rounded the 'keeper to roll the ball in to an empty net.
Barça's No. 10 secured the victory seven minutes later, finishing a well-worked move that featured neat interplay between Rakitic and Luis Suárez.
Barcelona strengthen their grip on LaLiga, but not many people will remember October 1 2017 for the football.
Barcelona 3 - 0 Las Palmas: as it happened
Full time! Barcelona beat Las Palmas 3-0 behind closed doors. Barça were clinical in the second half, leading to a scoreline that is harsh on the islanders.
Min 90 | The fourth official indicates two minutes of added time as Luis Suárez flashes a shot wide from inside the box.
Min 89 | Luis Suárez scuffs the ball in to the bottom corner with an overhead kick, but referee blows the whistle. The Uruguayan is adjudged to have shoved the centre-half.
Min 85 | Tannane goes close to reducing the deficit. The impressive winger wrong-foots Mascherano, moves in to the box, and trickles a shot just wide of the post. The scoreboard at Camp Nou features the word 'democracia'.
Min 84 | Barça sub: Having come on at half time, Iniesta comes off for Andre Gomes. He lopes down the tunnel, which suggests it's an enforced change.
Min 82 | Jonathan Calleri tries to catch Ter Stegen out with a shot on the bounce from 40 yards out. The striker gets his connection wrong, and sends an 'up and under' kick high in to the sky, before the ball lands with a thud on the centre spot.
Min 78 | The home side have three players bearing down on goal, with just the 'keeper back for Las Palmas. It looks set for a fourth goal, but Chichizola sprints off his line, out of the box, and tackles Iniesta.
Min 78 | Las Palmas subs: Vicente Gómez and Hernan Toledo replace Hernan Santana and Tana.
Min 77 | GOL GOL GOL! Messi has his second goal and it is absolutely mouthwatering. The Argentine bursts through the midfield and passes the ball on to Rakitic on the edge of the box. The ball goes from Rakitic, to Suárez, to Messi, and in to the bottom corner.
Min 73 | Luis Suárez rides a challenge and rolls the ball out to Alba on the left, continuing his run in to the six-yard box. The left-back tries to return the ball to his team-mate, but Chichizola cuts out the low ball.
Min 72 | We had a lone pitch invader following that goal, which is quite impressive in a way, given that the game is behind closed doors.
Min 70 | GOOOOOL! Messi stretches Barça's lead with a neat finish aided by a dollop of generous goalkeeping. Denis Suárez threads the ball through to Messi, who rounds Chichizola and rolls the ball in to an empty net.
Min 69 | Iniesta flicks the ball in to the path of Rakitic on the edge of the box. The Croatian, who was introduced at half time, doesn't manage to get a clean shot away and it goes out for a corner.
Min 65 | Messi shimmies in to the box, looking to work space to shoot with his left foot. He finds a pocket of space, but the angle is acute by the time he gets a shot away, and Chichizola gathers with a cricket-style 'long barrier' stop.
Min 62 | Viera, Calleri, and the excellent Tannane steam forward on the counter attack. Mascherano tries to cut out a pass with his head, but manages only to direct the ball through to a yellow shirt. Piqué intercepts the eventual ball in to the box.
Min 59 | Alberto Aquilani goes in to the referee's book.
Min 56 | Luis Suárez wriggles through a challenge in the box, managing to stay on his feet on this occasion, before chipping the ball to the penalty spot. Messi arrives and heads towards the bottom corner, but the ball skids wide.
Min 55 | Mauricio Lemos slams a free-kick at goal from at least 35 yards out. He catches it nicely, but it rises over the bar.
Min 52 | Luis Suárez runs in goal, rounds the 'keeper, and throws himself to the ground. The referee pulls out a yellow card and scribbles the Uruguayan's name in his book. Suárez tried to leave his foot dangling for the 'keeper to catch, but failed in that too.
Min 51 | Messi and Busquets both shoot on goal, and the 'keeper thwarts them both. Tannane gallops up the other end and shoots wide.
Min 49 | GOOOOOOOL! Sergio Busquets meets the corner with a glancing header and send the ball in to the bottom corner. The 'keeper comes out for the ball but gets nowhere near it. In the absence of crowd cheers, a polite applause meets the goal.
Min 49 | Rakitic slams a bouncing ball towards goal, drawing another good save.
Min 46 | The second half gets underway and Barcelona win a free-kick 30 yards out. Lionel Messi stands over it... the ball curves towards the bottom corner and Chichizola gets a strong palm to it.
Half time | Double substitution for Barcelona: Iniesta and Rakitic come on, with Paulinho and Aleix Vidal come off.
Half time | Barcelona have had less than 50% of possession (45%) in LaLiga at Camp Nou for the first time since 2015, when they had 44% of the ball in a match against Rayo Vallecano.
Min 45 + 1 | Half time. Sergio Busquets was booked as the whistle blew, seemingly for being gobby. Jordi Alba also shown a yellow card.
Min 43 | Calleri hits the post for Las Palmas! Nice build-up play allows Tannone to slip behind the Barça defence on the right-hand side of the box. Once again, he cuts the ball back to Calleri, and the striker's first-time shot thuds against the base of the upright. Barça scamper up the other end on the counter attack, with Lemos forced to turn Aleix Vidal's cross behind for a corner. Chichizola punches the ball to Messi on the edge of the box, and his shot flies over.
Min 40 | Jonathan Calleri gets his head on Tana's cross from the left, but the cross is a tad high and the ball goes straight up in the air. Las Palmas are playing with plenty of width, and in Calleri, they have a bustling (and skillful) target man to link the play together.
Min 39 | Messi picks up the ball on the edge of the box from Denis, and sets off on a run through the Las Palmas defence in incredibly tight space. The Argentine beats three or four, but is eventually crowded out.
Min 35 | Calleri draws Piqué in to a foul with a delectable 'flip-flap' skill, reminiscent of Ronaldinho, formerly of this parish of course. Yellow card for Barça's No. 3.
Min 34 | Paulinho follows that miss up with a booking. He closed down the 'keeper a little too clumsily, and is adjudged to have caught him late after the ball had been released.
Min 33 | Paulinho times his run in to the box absolutely perfectly to meet Sergi Roberto's cross from the right. Unfortunately for the Brazilian, his header skids wide from six yards out. That was the best chance of the match so far.
Min 31 | Piqué heads a corner over the bar, under pressure from Michel. The Barça man screams at the linesman for a corner. It's probably the only match in which the officials can actually hear what the players are saying, but nevertheless, it's a goal kick.
Min 28 | Aquilani threads a sensational, Iniesta-esque pass through the lines to the onrushing Tannane. He gets to the ball just before it goes out for a goal kick and cuts it back to Calleri. Mascherano does well to read the danger and close down Calleri before he can shoot from six yards.
Min 26 | Jonathan Calleri brings down the ball on his chest at the far post from a corner, and tries to square the ball across the six-yard box. It slams in to Piqué thigh, and the rangy defender manages to clear. The visiting side have enjoyed more of the ball in the last five minutes.
Min 25 | Paulinho misses out on a 50:50 in the centre circle, allowing Las Palmas to counter attack. The ball finds the No. 10, Tannane, out on the right. He drifts inside and shoots from 30 yards, but it's straight at Ter Stegen.
Min 23 | Denis Suárez wins a corner, but he will be disappointed not to have got more. The youngster bursts on to a though-ball in the box, and tries to round the 'keeper. Chichizola follows him out to the edge of the box, leaving his goal unguarded, but Denis can't shoot from the acute angle, or find a team-mate in the centre. Las Palmas clear the corner.
Min 21 | Superb double save from Chichizola in goal for Las Palmas! He first denies a Lionel Messi from 25 yards with a flying save to his left, before scrambling to his feet to deny Gerard Piqué on the follow-up.
Min 19 | Sergio Busquets passes the ball straight out of play (yes, really!) when in search of Denis Suárez on the left wing. Barça have had around 60% of possession so far, but lack penetration in the final third of the pitch.
Min 15 | Aleix Vidal, who has got forward from right-back at every opportunity, tries to cut in to the box, but Borja Herrera reads him like a David Baldacci novel and skips away with the ball.
Min 13 | It has the feel of an noncompetitive fixture due to the empty stands, and the tempo of the match reflects that too. Both sides have played tentatively in the opening stages.
Min 9 | Luis Suárez looks to squeeze through the line of yellow shirts, and does so. But the linesman raises his flag against the Uruguayan, who timed his run a tad early.
Min 8 | Lost amid the pre-match uncertainty is the fact that this is Paco Ayestarán's first match as Las Palmas manager. The fact that the match is behind closed doors may help in, in the sense that he will be able to communicate more easily with his players.
Min 6 | Sergi Roberto surges inside from right-back and shoots low towards the bottom corner. The 'keeper smothers it, but the Las Palmas defence remain occupied as Messi mazes through to the byline. The Argentine wins a corner, which the visitors clear. It is hard to emphasise enough quite how surreal this atmosphere feels.
Min 5 | Borja Herrera trots forward from left-back, and in the absence of any Barcelona players closing him down, has a shot at goal. He drags it wide.
Min 3 | Barcelona immediately settle in to possession in the Las Palmas half. Denis Suárez tries to latch on to a through ball, but Chichizola rushes out to claim. Barça appear to have lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, with Luis Suárez and Lionel Messi in attack.
Min 1 | Kick off at Camp Nou. The referee's whistle sounds out loud in the absence of fans, and the players shouts are audible. It feels like a reserve game.
16:12 | The teams are taking to the pitch at Camp Nou. The club hymn is coming out through the speakers, but there are no fans. It's incredibly surreal.
15:58 | FC Barcelona have announced that the match will take place behind closed doors.
15:40 | BeIN Sports are reporting that Barcelona will field the following team: Ter Stegen; Vidal, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Paulinho, Sergi Roberto; Messi, Suárez, Denis.
15:18 | Las Palmas announce their team (although it is still unclear if the match will go ahead): Chichizola, Michel, Ximo, Lemos, Borja, Aquilani, Hernán, Jonathan Viera, Tana, Oussama, Calleri.
15:10 | It now appears that the match will be suspended. Read the live updates.
14:38 | The Las Palmas squad are on their way to Camp Nou. It looks like the match will go ahead as planned.
14:25 | Barça defender Gerard Piqué has voted in the Catalan independence referendum. The 30-year-old said 'It's disgraceful what is happening,' ostensibly in reference to the police trying to prevent people voting.
14:13 | La Liga has granted permission to Las Palmas to wear a Spanish flag on their shirt for the match at Camp Nou. The club from the Canaries has decided to do that on the same day as the Catalan people vote in a referendum on independence.
Barcelona v Las Palmas live stream: preview
Two teams experiencing contrasting fortunes during the first weeks of the campaign meet at Camp Nou – both aiming to go into the mini-break, when LaLiga is put on the back burner for a fortnight, on a positive note. Ernesto Valverde’s Barça are soaring – top of the table with six wins from six and with 20 for goals for they are the top scorers in the division with the best defensive figures – just two against. Conversely, Las Palmas are hovering just above the relegation places in 17th and a miserable week was compounded when coach Manolo Márquez abruptly walked out on the team on Tuesday.
Márquez’s departure was so unexpected that it caught Director of Sport Toni Cruz on holiday and forced to return to find a replacement. The islanders have since brought in Pako Ayesterán, who was officially presented on Thursday. Ayesterán told reporters that it would be too easy to just ride out his first few days and get down to serious work with his new players during the international break; he insists that his Las Palmas will be trying to get a result from Camp Nou which will be no mean feat – the one and only time the islanders have taken a point from this fixture was in March 2002, with a certain Vinny Samways lining up for the guests. Grabbing the goals that day were Luis Enrique for the hosts and Orlando with a fine volley.
Loved and admired for their silky, flamboyant style, Las Palmas’ position in the standings is slightly deceptive and their figures look worse than they really are for the 1-5 hiding Atlético served them in Week 2; the team reacted to that defeat by stringing back-to-back wins against Málaga and Athletic Club and only lost by the bare minimum to Valencia and Sevilla. Ayesterán admitted that there are areas of the defence which he will want to work on but there are positives for him to draw on - UDLP have only conceded three goals on the road – against Valencia, Málaga and Sevilla the there is the magical 'new manager effect' which teams get after changing coach...
Barcelona team news
Thomas Vermaelen missed Friday’s due to a stomach bug and was still feeling under the weather when the squad trained on Saturday evening. Long-term casualties Ousmane Dembélé and Rafinha will cheer the team on from the sidelines. Ernesto Valverde named an 18-man squad list for the match after Saturday evening’s presser but there was no place for Arda Turan or Paco Alcácer, who are out on tactical grounds.
Man to watch: Leo Messi. The Argentinean has not missed a single minute of the action in official competition so far and has bagged 12 goals for club and country, including two hat tricks – against Eibar and Espanyol. He’s already on nine goals in LaLiga, the category’s top scorer and will want to add to that this afternoon.
Las Palmas team news
Pako Ayesterán has seven absentees for the game – including former Blaugranas Alen Halilovic and Sergi Samper. Injury also rules out Vitolo, Dani Castellano, Momo and Loïc Rémy. Defender Pedro Bigas is excluded for technical decision. Ayesterán has included just one out-and-out centre-forward in his 18-man squad which hints that he could be trying to frustrate Barça by swamping the centre of the park and leaving lone striker Jonathan Calleri to clean up any loose balls he might latch on to. However in the two training sessions he has supervised so far, the coach has retained the team’s preferred 4-3-3 system.
Man to watch: Jonathan Calleri. Along with Rémy, the Argentine is the team’s joint-top goalscorer with two goals each. Flashy, strong, dogged, good at holding the ball up and a powerful header of the ball, the former Boca Juniors and West Ham striker can use his weaker, left foot when needed but he’s stronger on his right, as he showed with a very tasty, near-post thunderball strike against Málaga in Week 3.
Barcelona v Las Palmas: possible line-ups
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Piqué, Umtiti, Jordi Alba; Busquets, Aleix Vidal, Iniesta, Rakitic; Luis Suárez, Messi.
Las Palmas: Chichizola; Michel Macedo, Lemos, Ximos, Borja Herrera; Aquilani, Jonathan Viera, Santana; Hernán Toledo, Tana, Calleri.
Barcelona v Las Palmas enhanced betting odds:
No surprise that Barça are odds-on favourite to take all three points. Leo Messi is the bookies’ choice to open the scoring, followed by Luis Suárez and then Paulinho. Placing a crisp, 10 euro bet on the hosts to win 4-0 would earn a windfall of 190 euros, a 7-0 win would rake in 650 euros.