FC Barcelona faced Deportivo Abanca in the Quarter Finals of the Queen's Cup. With two attacking teams on display, plenty of goals were expected. But, the match panned out to be a low scoring one with Barca emerging victorious thanks to a 120th-minute header by Kheira Hamraoui deep in the extra time.
Barcelona Deportivo Abanca
Pamela Tajonar (GK) Esther Sullastres
Mapi Leon Teresa Abelleira
Marta Torrejon Iris
Alexia Putellas Athenea
Patri Gujijarro Nuria
Aitana Bonmati Arbelaez
Leila Ouahabi Maria Mendez
Caroline Graham Hansen Bedoya
Andrea Pereira Maya
Lieke Martens Cris
Barca played a 4-3-3 formation with Lieke - Oshoala - Graham Hansen upfront while Deportivo put a offensive 4-2-3-1 and 4-5-1 when defending. The one decision which surprised me the most was benching Peke, who is the leading scorer of the team. The intent was made clear that Deportivo is going to defend deep and would look for some quick counter-attacks when Barca lose the ball or the shape in the attacking half. This is something Barca never expected from the high-flying Deportivo. I believe the decision has to be the lessons learned from their previous meeting with Barca when they were trounced 6-1 at Estadi Johan Cruyff.
Barca started with intent and look like the team to take the lead. They kept creating chance after chance and put intense pressure on Deportivo's backline. Deportivo's goalkeeper Esther made a major mistake by handling the back pass and giving Barca freekick inside the box. But she made amends to her mistake by pushing Alexia's effort for a corner.
Oshoala fluffed chance after chance in the first 15 minutes and it remained goalless. After surviving the initial onslaught from Barca, Deportivo looked comfortable and tried playing from the back and they remained clear with their game plan. They wanted to frustrate Barca and use the chances that fell for them during counters. Pamela Tajonar remained a spectator for the whole of the first half as Barca dominated and played inside Deportivo half for most of the first 45 minutes.
Deportiva had a decent game plan to restrict Barca's front three from scoring. You can see in the picture below how they formed the defensive line when Barca were on the ball. They deployed two defensive lines of 4-5 with 10 meters apart. It more like how Napoli played against Barcelona men's team. However, Barca Femeni created a lot of chances in the first half.
Another defensive work Deportivo held firm in situations when Barca wingers crossed the ball, they put four-player ahead of Oshoala and shut down the space to her.
If Barca were to score a goal, then they would need to shoot with the first touch.
The second half followed the same pattern as the first half. Barca dominated possession and only the opening goal was eluding. Then the first substitution came with Jenni replacing Aitana in the 59th minute making the intention clear that they needed a goal badly. The fantastic four were on display with Jenni - Oshoala - Caro - Martens combining well. Deportivo stood firm with their excellent defensive display and kept at bay. Quite a few times in the match Barca opened up the defense and have their chances to score, Deportivo defended after the first touch inside the box by a Barca player. It clearly showed that they need to attack the ball on the first touch rather than moving the ball on the first touch and taking a shot. Barca were clearly lacking a cutting edge in the first half and it remained goalless.
Barca had another chance spurned when Oshoala took an extra touch.
The ball is cleared
Oshoala was put one-on-one on multiple occasions and it was not her day. Deportivo made some mistake inside the box and they were reprieved. You can see in the picture below how difficult it was for them to play from the back against Barca's high pressing. They gave away the ball in dangerous positions and were lucky to not get punished.
Alexia played a pretty average game considering the standard she kept throughout the season. Mariona came on for Alexia at the 74th minute. Luis Cortes played his cards to perfection and didn't panic either. And frustrations started to grow after 80 minutes of the game. Parti, who was as usual at her best in dictating the play was replaced at the 89th minute by Kheira Hamraoui to give the physical advantage against the tired Deportivo legs. The first 90 minutes ended goalless credit to a splendid defensive work by Deportivo.
Barca bossed the ball in the extra time and a similar pattern followed with Oshoala, Jenni, Martens, and Caro denied that elusive goal by great goalkeeping from Esther. Lieke and Oshoala switced positions to try their luck to no avail.
The match went on to the final fifteen minutes of the Extra Time and Cortes made his final substitution by replacing Ana for Leila. And then the moment arrived when Mariono played that cross across the face of the goal met with a terrific header by Kheira taking Barca to the semi-finals of the Queen's Cup.
Mariona once again proved why she is a vital cog to this team, her dribbling abilities and distribution of the ball across the pitch was exemplary. One more underrated player from this Barcelona team. She should definitely be a starter in knockout and crunch matches ahead of Aitana/Vicky. Oshoala really needs to work on her finishing as she wasted more than a dozen chances throughout the match.
Marta Torrejon might be a good wing back going forward but she definitely need to work on her defensive aspect of the game. You can clearly see in the below picture, she committed herself exposing the defense. You just can't do this against opposition like Wolfsburg or Lyon.
The one aspect of the game which I loved, Barca never gave up and they kept their nerves to win the match. I have seen them buckle up under pressure in the previous seasons but this team with their mentality, they have a real chance to win the Quadruple at the end of the season if luck favors them.
And thumbs up to Deportivo who played their hearts out. It was one of the best matches from Spanish top flight this season.
Kheira Hamraoui - 120'
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