12152017

Barcelona win behind closed doors after day of unrest

Nou Camp scoreboard

The scoreboard at the empty Nou Camp carried a picture of a ballot box with the word ‘democracy’

Barcelona’s La Liga game against Las Palmas was played behind closed doors as a protest after their request for it to be postponed in light of Catalonia’s independence referendum was rejected.

The Spanish government pledged to stop a poll declared illegal on a day of violent protests and unrest.

Barca took the decision to play behind closed doors 25 minutes before kick-off, with thousands of fans outside.

The league leaders cruised to a comfortable 3-0 victory.

‘Barca felt it inappropriate to play match’

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Police storm Catalan referendum polling station and take away ballots

Police used batons and fired rubber bullets during pro-referendum protests in Barcelona, and Catalan emergency services say at least 460 people have been injured.

Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said police had “acted with professionalism and in a proportionate way”.

A statement from La Liga said the match should take place as normal because the security and safety of fans had been “guaranteed” by the Catalan police.

Spanish football writer Andy West, who was at the Nou Camp, said Barcelona’s decision to play behind closed doors was a protest against it being given the go-ahead.

He said: “According to the club, they asked for a postponement because they did not feel it would be appropriate to play the game considering the abnormal scenes which are taking place around Catalonia.

“The league refused and threatened a heavy sanction – presumably the six-point penalty which has been reported.

“So Barca reluctantly agreed to play the game but, as a sign of protest, they insisted it could only take place behind closed doors.”

Barcelona easily won the game thanks to two goals from Lionel Messi and one from Sergio Busquets.

Lionel Messi<!–

Lionel Messi is used to playing in front of packed stands at the Nou Camp

‘We condemn the events that have taken place’

In a strongly worded statement on their website before the 15:15 BST kick-off, Barcelona said they had wanted to postpone the match in light of the political situation.

The statement said: “FC Barcelona condemns the events which have taken place in many parts of Catalonia today in order to prevent its citizens exercising their democratic right to free expression.

“Given the exceptional nature of events, the board of directors have decided that the FC Barcelona first-team game against Las Palmas will be played behind closed doors following the Professional Football League’s refusal to postpone the game.”

During the game, the scoreboard at the Nou Camp carried a picture of a ballot box and the word ‘democracy’ on it.

Barca’s opponents Las Palmas had the Spanish flag embroidered prominently onto their match shirts to state their support for a united Spain.

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Barcelona’s players show support

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Barcelona’s players wore club shirts bearing the colours of the Catalan flag before kick-off

Barcelona’s players emerged from the tunnel at the Nou Camp wearing a yellow-and-red-striped club training shirt – the colours of the Estelada flag associated with Catalan independence.

Earlier in the day, Barcelona defender Gerard Pique posted a picture on Twitter of him voting in the referendum.

Pique tweeted: “I have already voted. Together we are unstoppable defending democracy.”

Even though the game was played behind closed doors, one supporter still managed to gain entry and invaded the pitch waving a piece of paper.

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Analysis – ‘There’s bound to be anger’

Andy West, Spanish football journalist at the Nou Camp

Strange, strange, strange.

Sitting inside the stadium it was disconcerting to hear the whistles and jeers of fans who had been waiting patiently to be let inside.

Ten minutes before kick-off, those fans were finally told the game was being played behind closed doors. There is bound to be a lot of anger among people who paid good money for tickets.

The figure of Javier Tebas will loom large in the debate about how this game is being played. Tebas is La Liga’s president and a self-confessed Real Madrid fan, and a couple of days ago changed his Twitter profile picture to an image of the Catalan and Spanish flags blended together in a heart shape.

Tebas has a lot of critics – in fact, it seems you either hate him or you really hate him. And having someone with such publicly stated personal interest in the Catalan independence issue as the head of La Liga is obviously very contentious.

Fans outside the Nou Camp<!–

An official announcement was not made to confirm the game would be played behind closed doors until 25 minutes before kick-off
Fans outside the Nou Camp<!–

Fans had travelled from far and wide to watch the La Liga match
Police at the Nou Camp<!–

There was plenty of security – but no fans – as kick-off approached
Nou Camp<!–

Vast swathes of empty seats at the Nou Camp greeted the players as they shook hands before kick-off

Live Text

Match ends, Barcelona 3, Las Palmas 0.

Second Half ends, Barcelona 3, Las Palmas 0.

Corner, Las Palmas. Conceded by Sergi Roberto.

Jonathan Calleri (Las Palmas) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Javier Mascherano (Barcelona).

Luis Suárez went off injured after Barcelona had used all subs.

Attempt missed. Luis Suárez (Barcelona) right footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Lionel Messi with a through ball.

Ximo Navarro (Las Palmas) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Luis Suárez (Barcelona).

Attempt blocked. Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

Corner, Barcelona. Conceded by Ximo Navarro.

Attempt missed. Oussama Tannane (Las Palmas) right footed shot from the right side of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Jonathan Viera.

Substitution, Barcelona. André Gomes replaces Andrés Iniesta because of an injury.

Attempt missed. Jonathan Calleri (Las Palmas) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left. Assisted by Oussama Tannane with a headed pass.

Attempt missed. Luis Suárez (Barcelona) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right from a direct free kick.

Foul by Oussama Tannane (Las Palmas).

Lionel Messi (Barcelona) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Vicente Gómez (Las Palmas) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Sergio Busquets (Barcelona).

Substitution, Las Palmas. Hernán Toledo replaces Tana.

Substitution, Las Palmas. Vicente Gómez replaces Hernán Santana.

Goal! Barcelona 3, Las Palmas 0. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Luis Suárez with a through ball.

Corner, Las Palmas. Conceded by Javier Mascherano.

Goal! Barcelona 2, Las Palmas 0. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) left footed shot from very close range to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Denis Suárez with a through ball.

Corner, Barcelona. Conceded by Mauricio Lemos.

Attempt blocked. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

Corner, Barcelona. Conceded by Ximo Navarro.

Attempt blocked. Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Andrés Iniesta.

Hernán Santana (Las Palmas) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona).

Attempt saved. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) left footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Andrés Iniesta.

Foul by Alberto Aquilani (Las Palmas).

Sergio Busquets (Barcelona) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt missed. Jonathan Viera (Las Palmas) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Alberto Aquilani.

Ximo Navarro (Las Palmas) is shown the yellow card.

Offside, Barcelona. Lionel Messi tries a through ball, but Luis Suárez is caught offside.

Foul by Hernán Santana (Las Palmas).

Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Attempt missed. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Luis Suárez.

Attempt missed. Mauricio Lemos (Las Palmas) right footed shot from outside the box is too high from a direct free kick.

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