MADRID: Barcelona’s under-pressure coach Ronald Koeman delivered a bizarre press conference yesterday as he read a pre-prepared statement before leaving without answering questions. Koeman’s position is fragile, after Barca followed up a 3-0 defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League last week with a 1-1 draw at home to Granada in La Liga, with the team’s tactics and style coming under scrutiny. In his press conference, Koeman sat down and was introduced by the club’s press officer, who said the Dutchman wanted to read a short statement. Reading from a piece of paper, Koeman said: “Hello everyone. The club with me as coach is in a situation of rebuilding.
“The financial situation of the club is connected to the sporting activities and vice-versa. This means we as a team have to rebuild the team without being able to make any big financial investments. This needs time. The young talent today could be the next big world stars in just a few years. To rebuild this team, young players will be given opportunities like Xavi and Iniesta had in their day. But we must ask for patience.
“Achieving a high ranking in La Liga is a great success. In the Champions League we can’t hope for miracles. The defeat by Bayern Munich last week has to be analyzed with that perspective. The process we’re in now with the staff and the team deserves unconditional support, in words and actions. I know the press recognizes this process.
“It’s not the first time in Barcelona’s history this has happened. We count on your support in these difficult times. As staff and players, we are very happy with the great support of the fans, like we had in the match against Granada. Visca Barca, thanks to everyone.” Several names, including Xavi Hernandez, Roberto Martinez and Antonio Conte, have been mentioned as possible successors to 58-year-old Koeman, whose relationship with club president Joan Laporta has been strained in recent weeks.
After the defeat at home to Bayern, Laporta posted a video addressed to Barcelona supporters in which he said: “I am as disappointed and upset as all of you are… Do not doubt we will resolve this situation.” Koeman was asked about the club’s loss of identity after the draw against Granada on Monday. His team had delivered 54 crosses and ended the game with central defenders Gerard Pique and Ronald Araujo playing up front.
“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.” Barcelona head to Cadiz tonight in La Liga, having won two and drawn two of their opening four league games.
Atletico on top
Elsewhere, Luis Suarez scored twice, including an injury-time winner, as Atletico Madrid came from behind to beat 10-man Getafe 2-1 and move top of La Liga on Tuesday. Hosts Getafe took the lead through Stefan Mitrovic on the stroke of half-time, but the game changed when Carles Alena was sent off in the 74th minute.
“In the first half, we had a lack of movement, of dynamism, and the match was flat until the opponents’ goal,” said Atletico coach Diego Simeone. “In the second period, the match had more rhythm, more intensity, we had more efficiency in attack.” A goalless draw with fellow unbeaten side Athletic Bilbao at the weekend saw them drop two points behind Real in the early table and Simeone’s men were far from convincing again for long stages. A limp first-half display from the visitors ended in poor fashion as Getafe defender Mitrovic headed home.
Antoine Griezmann and Suarez, who saw a header strike the crossbar, both went close to an equalizer before former Barcelona midfielder Alena gave Atletico a helping hand. Alena, who had already been booked, was given a straight red card following a VAR review for a poor studs-up challenge on Brazilian international Matheus Cunha.
Suarez made Alena pay only four minutes later, running onto Mario Hermoso’s long pass and lashing a left-footed shot into the roof of the net. The Uruguayan completed the comeback just as the clock ticked past 90 minutes, nodding in at the back post as Getafe goalkeeper David Soria backtracked after initially attempting to collect Sime Vrsaljko’s cross.
Suarez, who was making only his third league start in six games this term, has now scored three La Liga goals this season. Griezmann, though, is still yet to find the net in four appearances since rejoining the club from Barcelona. “He is in the process of adapting to this new Atletico, which is no longer the Atletico he had known,” said Simeone of the Frenchman. “I’m sure he will shine like before, I have no doubts.”
Elsewhere on Tuesday, Bilbao lost 2-1 at home to Rayo Vallecano, for whom Colombian veteran Falcao scored his first goal in memorable style, a winner six minutes into injury time. And Celta Vigo notched up their first victory of the campaign by beating winless Levante 2-0 thanks to goals from Iago Aspas and Brais Mendez. – AFP