FC Barcelona completed an improbable comeback from 0-2 down yesterday to win 3-2, scoring three times in 9 minutes to keep their winning streak going.
In games such as this, where the disappointment is palpable, it’s easy for the opposition manager to take some shots out of frustration, but Rafael Benítez chose the high road.
"“Xavi is intelligent and he knows it…The substitutions that Xavi makes are intelligent. He put fast and unbalanced players on the field because the starting plan did not work for him.” Benitez said"
During his post-game interview, Xavi took full responsibility for Barca falling behind 0-2. The Barcelona manager rotated his squad following a busy week that saw the La Liga champions beat both Real Betis and Royal Antwerp 5-0. But the changes backfired as the formation looked unbalanced throughout with too much space on the wings.
Joao Cancelos played in an inverted position which created a ton of space in behind, something that Celta looked to exploit and to good effect. Considering Marcos Alonso offered very little defensive cover on the left, Xavi was probably right to blame himself.
Xavi’s substitutions changed the dynamics and the game
Xavi is in a very fortunate position where he has plenty of options to change the game from the bench, a luxury not enjoyed by a coach like Benitez.
The Barca manager was able to introduce the likes of Alejandro Balde, Raphinha, Yamal, Gavi and Araujo to bring more balance to the side. Once he did that, Barca was able to both cover and attack the wide areas.
A delicious pass from Joao Felix set up Robert Lewandowski for his first goal, then Cancelo found the Polish striker for the second before the Portuguese fullback’s intelligent run resulted in the 3rd and winning goal for Barca.
A good coach tries to evolve his system, but a better coach realises when his tactics aren’t working. Xavi was able to do that and act quickly enough to give his players time to change the game, which they did to devastating effect.