BARCELONA. It was a routine win for Barcelona when they beat Almeria 2-0 at the Camp Nou on Saturday night to climb to the top of the La Liga table. But the match was not about that at all.

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Longtime Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué played his last game in front of home supporters after announcing he would retire when the Spanish championship was interrupted for the World Cup this month.

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Here’s Sportzshala’s Sam Marsden with the Camp Nou reaction and analysis.

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JUMP ON: Player Ratings | Best/worst performers | Highlights and Notable Moments | Post match quotes | Key statistics | Upcoming matches


Fast reaction

1. Spending Barça found shooting boots to come out on top

Barcelona may have feared it would be one of those halftime nights. In the first half, they managed 16 shots and an xG of 2.53 – the highest point-free history since the 2010-11 season – but they didn’t score a single goal for their efforts. Robert Lewandowski missed a penalty and Ferran Torres alone conceded six chances at xG 0.99. On the other hand, only a brilliant save by Marc-André ter Stegen, which did not allow Largi Ramazani to keep Almeria.

However, after the break, any fears that Almería’s five-man defense could not be broken quickly evaporated. Ousmane Dembele opened the scoring in the 48th minute with a beautiful solo goal with a right hand and a shot into the bottom corner from a Sergio Busquets scoring pass. Frenkie De Jong then added a second just after the hour mark, turning home after Ansu Fati’s shot was deflected.

After all, victory was as routine as their arrival. This puts Barça in first place in the league, at least temporarily, two points clear of Real Madrid who travel to Rayo Vallecano on Monday. Aside from last month’s loss to Real Madrid, it’s been a near-perfect domestic season for Barça, with 11 wins, one draw and a single loss at the Santiago Bernabéu.

2. Piqué said goodbye to the club legend

This game was truly dedicated to Gerard Piqué as he made his 616th appearance for Barcelona and last at the Camp Nou. He will retire after Tuesday’s visit to Osasuna, Barça’s last game before the Spanish Liga break for the World Cup.

Sergio Busquets handed him the captain’s armband for the match and, along with his sons Milan and Sasha, led the team to the start to the chants of “Pique, Pique, Pique” from 92,605 spectators. It was the biggest attendance at the Camp Nou since the 2019 Clasico (93,426), which in itself is a sign of how well Pique is respected by the club’s supporters.

These fans cheered for his every touch and chanted for him to take an early penalty. Lewandowski even offered it to him, but he turned down the chance to say goodbye with a goal. Instead, he said goodbye to three points on a relatively quiet night for the Barça centre-back.

The most emotional moment came in the 83rd minute when he was substituted. He hugged each of his teammates, received thunderous applause, and waved to his adoring crowd. His 14 years with Barça’s first team have produced 30 trophies, including eight league titles and three Champions League victories, and more could follow the pitch, albeit as club president rather than manager.

Thursday’s farewell video promised he would be back.

3. Two sides of Dembele

Rookie Dembele was brilliant. He showed speed to intercept a long pass from Busquets, the ability to clear two slow-moving defenders, and then the composure to force the ball effortlessly into the bottom corner.

Barça’s frustration is that despite being capable of it, he is so inconsistent. Moments later, he was played again and passed the goalkeeper, but this time Dembele was slow. Instead of firing when the gate gaped, he hesitated, and hesitated, and hesitated. And the chance is gone. A goal and a miss sum up Dembele.

Just two weeks ago, in a match against Athletic Bilbao, he scored one goal and made three goals. A week later, he disappeared in a game with Valencia. There was a little bit of everything against Almera.


Player Ratings

Barcelona: Ter Stegen 7; Balde 7, Pique 7, Alonso 6, Alba 8; Busquets 6, Pedri 7, De Jong 7; Dembele 7, Lewandowski 6, Torres 5

Subscriptions: Ansu 6, Rafinha 6, Gavi 6, Christensen 5

Almeria: Martinez 7; Mendez 6, Kaiki 5, Eli 6, Chumi 5, Akime 5; Robertone 6, Melero 6, Costa 5; Baptistao 5, Ramazani 6

Subscriptions: Souza 5, Babić 5, Eguaras 5, Puchmal 5, Portillo 5


Best and Worst Performers

BEST: Jordi Alba, Barcelona

A constant source of danger on the left. The quality of his supplies rarely let him down.

WORST: Ferran Torres, Barcelona

On the one hand, he was a threat, constantly taking up shooting positions, but on the other hand, he did not use any of the chances that fell to his lot in an hour on the field.


Highlights and Notable Moments

The focus of the match was always Piqué and his last home game in front of the Barcelona fans, and his children joined the pre-match strike:

Barcelona dominated the first half, beating Almeria 16-1, but failed to achieve anything.

Lewandowski had a chance to score a penalty but missed:

After the break, it didn’t take long for Barcelona to find their advantage, which led them to the final result.

Dembele single-handedly took the defense of Almeria and the finish was perfect:


After the match: what the players and managers said

Gerard Piqué: “First of all, thanks to all my teammates, the coaching staff, the club staff…everyone who makes everyday life at the club easier. Thanks to the board of directors for all these years. In life, as you get older, you realize that sometimes loving means letting go. [starts crying]…

“There is so much love in a relationship, so much passion, I think this is the moment to give yourself some space. That’s why I think it’s the right time to leave because I love this club. I am convinced that I will be back to the future. This is not goodbye, I left when I was 17 and I came back. My grandfather made me a member when I was born. I was born here and I will die here.”

Barcelona head coach Javi Hernandez: “It was a historic evening for Gerard. We played very well. We wanted to send him off the field in the best possible way. The more important the game is to him, the better he performs. I already told him what a legend he is at Barcelona. and how grateful we are for all he has done.”

Xavi on Lewandowski’s missed penalty: “The good news is when Robert doesn’t score, others score. We don’t just depend on it. The rest should activate when it doesn’t matter.”


Key Statistics (via Sportzshala Stats & Info)

  • Lewandowski’s miss from the penalty spot breaks a streak of five consecutive penalties scored. It was his first miss since December 2021 against Benfica.

  • Dembele’s four goals are his third in the same La Liga season with Barcelona. His record is eight in the 2018-19 season.

  • Piqué’s 30 goals in La Liga is the third-most all-time Barcelona defender behind Ronald Koeman (67) and Seger (38).


Next

Barcelona: Barça are gearing up faster for their final match before the World Cup as they travel to Osasuna in La Liga on Tuesday 8 November. (Live at 3:30 pm ET on Sportzshala+.)

Almeria: Almeria will play twice more before breaking into the World Cup. They first host Getafe in La Liga on Wednesday, November 9 at 13:00 ET (Live on Sportzshala+), and then travel to Arenteiro on Sunday, November 13 to compete in the Copa del Rey (also available) on Sportzshala+).