Madrid (AFP) – Ronald Koeman defended his direct tactics after being accused of betraying Barcelona’s attacking traditions in a 1-1 draw at home to Granada on Monday.
Koeman brought Gerard Pique off the bench at Camp Nou to play up front alongside Luuk de Jong, with Ronald Araujo, another central defender, also thrown into the attack as Barca sent in 54 crosses in search of an equaliser.
Araujo finally headed home in injury-time after Domingos Duarte had given Granada an early lead but the whistles at the end from the Barcelona fans indicated a point was not nearly enough.
“We changed our style a little bit,” Koeman said. “The spaces were out wide, not in the middle. We went with Pique, De Jong and Araujo and from one of those crosses we got the draw.”
Koeman’s position was already fragile after last week’s 3-0 drubbing at home to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, a game in which his team failed to muster a single shot on target.
After the latest disappointment against Granada, it was put to him that supporters were even angrier about Barcelona’s style than the result.
“If you see the list of players, what do you do? Play tiki-taki? Tiki-taki when there are no spaces?” said Koeman.
“We did what we had to do. We tried to win another way. We don’t have players one-on-one or with speed. We’re talking… I’m not going to say more because it seems I have to argue about everything.”
– Koeman ‘calm’ –
Koeman insisted on Sunday he was “calm” and not fearing for his future as Barcelona coach but an already-strained relationship with club president Joan Laporta will be pushed to breaking point if results, and performances, do not improve.
There were 85 seconds on the clock when Domingos Duarte headed Granada in front.
Sergio Escudero was quickest to his cleared corner and he beat Sergio Busquets twice, once to the ball and then again to the line where he fed Duarte, who nipped in front of Frenkie de Jong at the back post.
Barca tried to exert some control but they never really stretched Granada, who could have doubled their lead when Jorge Molina volleyed over a cross from the lively Darwin Machis.
Sergi Roberto cushioned a shot against the crossbar to begin a late surge of pressure at the end of the first half, which also saw Araujo go close with two headers in quick succession.
Luuk de Jong came on for Sergi Roberto at half-time, indicating a more direct approach was coming but Granada were not uncomfortable. Depay hooked over from a de Jong ball in before Oscar Mingueza’s delivery grazed the top of the crossbar.
As Barcelona grew more desperate, they became more predictable too, as more and more crosses were slung into the box in the hope someone might capitalise. De Jong should have scored with 11 minutes left but headed over from five yards.
Araujo was booked after a skirmish with Granada’s defenders and then, with the adrenaline still pumping, he grabbed an equaliser for Barca, keeping the ball alive in the box and then dashing forward to meet Gavi’s chipped ball in.
Barca chased a second, with Araujo sprinting down the right and trying to find Pique in the middle. Granada took a deserved point.