It's rare to see Barcelona lose--or even drop points in--back-to-back games, so it was without a huge amount of shock that they ground out a workmanlike, tough win in the Nou Camp Sunday afternoon against Valencia. This wasn't a classic Liga game for Barcelona, however, who traditionally run over their opponents with their suffocating possession and high defensive press. Rather, this was a tough, physical game, not without flash from both sides, but without a whole lot of luck: both teams hit shots that barely scooted wide on various occasions, and Roberto Soldado in particular worried the Barcelona back line.
The first half started with a lot of back and forth: Barcelona threatening through their imposing midfield trio, while Valencia worked mainly through Soldado and Andrés Guardado, who had to leave the pitch in the second half. 23 minutes into the half, and it was time for Barcelona: Adriano aimed high and inside, and blasted a shot from the corner of the box into the upper corner of the goal, far from a leaping Diego Alves. It was a good-looking goal, but again, not a Barcelona-y goal: there wasn't a huge amount of buildup, and it was mainly pretty because of the pinpoint accuracy and power combination.
Things would stay more or less that way throughout the game--a high tension affair dominated by physicality in the midfield and quick passing. Alex Song debuted as a starter for the blaugrana, and played a good, strong game: he looks like he'll fit in nicely, though Tito Vilanova has a large number of players at his position.
The game's main moment of controversy came in the 60th minute, when Victor Ruiz scored for Valencia; it was a close, bang-bang play that could easily have gone the other way, but on replay he did appear to be offsides. It was a free kick from outside the area, and Ruiz took off a microsecond too soon. It's a tough break for Valencia, but not an unfair one.
Barcelona will go into their next matches pleased--they ground out a tough win against a strong opponent. Arguably the second-toughest match they'll have all season.