Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez lamented his side’s performance in possession despite a 1-0 Copa del Rey semifinal first leg win against Real Madrid on Thursday.
Barca had lost their last two games but produced a spirited defensive performance to beat Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, with Eder Militao’s first half own goal the difference between the two teams.
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Xavi’s side registered just 35% possession, their lowest in the last eight seasons and lowest across their last 685 games for which data is available. Their previous low was 44%.
“I am satisfied with the effort and how we defended,” Xavi said in a news conference after the game. “We minimised Madrid’s chances at their own ground, where they usually create a lot.
“It was a positive result, which I am happy about, but we have work to do on the ball. The plan was to have long spells of possession and defend with the ball, but we couldn’t.
“Normally, we are better in possession, more precise. We didn’t make good choices today, we didn’t have patience with the ball, we didn’t win the physical battles in their half, but there are other aspects of the game I liked.”
However, despite giving up possession to Madrid, Barca did not allow their opponents to register a single shot on target.
It was the first time since a 2-0 loss to Paris Saint-Germain in last season’s Champions League that Madrid have failed to work the goalkeeper, while they have registered a shot on goal in all of their last 294 home games for which data is available.
Xavi said Barca — who were without Andreas Christensen, Pedri, Ousmane Dembele and Robert Lewandowski through injury — had not betrayed their style but were forced to defend by Carlo Ancelotti’s side.
“The opponent makes you play like that,” he added. “Today they dominated us with the ball. We couldn’t find the solution with the ball by beating that high press. It was hard for us.
“We could have drawn, but defensively we were spectacular. I still think Madrid are strong, they normally create a lot of chances at home but today they hardly created any.”
Prior to the game, Xavi had said Madrid, as LaLiga and Champions League holders, were favourites for the tie and he maintained that is still the case ahead of the second leg at Camp Nou on April 5.
Before then, the teams meet in LaLiga on March 19, also at Camp Nou. Xavi’s team, who have now won three of the last four Clasicos, are currently seven points clear at the top of the table.
There was further history made in Thursday’s win, with Barca captain Sergio Busquets surpassing Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos to become the highest ever appearance-maker in the history of the Clasico.
Busquets, 34, played against Madrid for the 46th time — Messi and Ramos both made 45 appearances in the fixture — and could face them two more times in the next month.
“I am happy to have played more Clasicos than anyone else,” he told reporters. “As a player, these are the games you love. I am lucky to have been at the best club in the world for many years and I am still enjoying it.”