Too good for Scotland but miles off the best teams in the CL. We seem to be in a limbo where nobody can challenge us domestically but neither can we mount a serious challenge in Europe.
Tonight’s score could have been anything to be honest as we were outplayed in every area of the park. The team had obviously prepared to play a 5-4-1 and kept their shape for much of the game while Barcelona played through it. They were showing off tonight with their £300 + million forward line on top form. Some of their movement was breathtaking and they gave us a lesson in how to press and how not to defend against a great team.
Looking down on the pitch from the gods you could see our very rigid shape being unable to cope with the pace, variation and skill of their attacks. It was a new defensive shape for us and a new defence with Gamboa and De Vries still settling in. Neither of them were convincing tonight but this is not the game to judge new players in a team.
We did try and play football at all times (which contributed to a couple of goals). Our players continued to be brave in the ball and try and do the right thing. Free kicks were being taken quickly by us, even late in the game, and we always tried to be progressive when we had the ball. Once you lose the ball to a team of this class then you are always in big trouble. I’m sure we could have kept the score to four or five by playing safe more often but Brendan has his eye on the long game and so was always going to stick to this approach. There were some bright specks in the gloom. Toure was impressive again and was continually organising the defence. Tierney never stopped trying, Sinclair was lively in the first half and Brown did a valiant King Canute impression (with moments of success).
This CL group was always a season too soon for us from a team point of view but it’s necessary to give us the money to invest and build a team capable of playing better against the best.
The fans at the stadium were pretty phlegmatic on the whole and stayed behind the team to the end. They could see the team were working hard and being brave on the ball throughout the game. Personally I was more gutted by the Gibraltar result and performance than tonight’s.
This may well not be the last big defeat we have in this group but it doesn’t change the fact that our team has improved from last season and needs to improve further. Brendan regularly says that the team is a long way off where he wants it to be, in twelve months we’ll be able to better judge how far he can take us.