Barcelona beat Valladolid 1-0 but were left fuming by a dangerous playing surface that endangered players on both sides.
Valladolid relaid their pitch just four days before the game and it showed.
‘We had to work hard because of the state of the pitch,’ said Gerard Pique. ‘They want to play a game in the United States by this is an embarrassment. I hope those responsible do something about it because it was lamentable.’
Sergio Busquets said:
‘The two areas were terrible it was like trying to play on the beach. There was a great risk of injury.’
And La Liga President Javier Tebas conceded:
‘The state of the pitch did not meet the minimum requirements of the competition and we will open an enquiry.’
Passes were going astray in the atrocious conditions under foot. At one point Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde had to step on to the pitch to push a lifted turf back into place.
It wasn’t difficult to see which half Barcelona had attacked the first half because the Valladolid end looked the final furlong at Aintree after a Grand National.
Spanish journalists took to twitter to complain, and all asked the same question that Pique had posed at the end of the game: ‘How can the League being thinking about taking a game to the United States when it can’t even ensure the quality of the pitches in Spain?’
La Liga is bound to ask questions of newly promoted Valladolid who lost all three points thanks to Ousmane Dembele’s second half goal – his second important goal of the season so far.
The French winger, who also got the winner in the Spanish Super Cup final, started well with quick feet taking him to the touchline although he blasted his shot over from a tight angle.
Ter Stegen then had his first shot to save from Enes Unal. The 21-year-old Turkish striker was on Manchester City’s books for two years until they sold him to Villarreal for £12million with a buy-back clause.
He spent a season on loan at Levante and is now taking his chance to impress at Valladolid.
Barcelona were soon back on top with Messi playing Dembele behind Valladolid’s defence. All he had to do was square to Luis Suarez in the six-yard box but his touch was heavy and he ballooned the ball beyond the striker.
Suarez had the next chance but from Coutinho’s pass he was thwarted by Jordi Masip. The former Barcelona B goalkeeper then saved well when he got down to palm away a low shot from Coutinho.
Dembele got in behind Valladolid again but Pique headed the ball away from Umtiti as both jumped to convert.
Barcelona kept pushing forward in the second half and on 57 minutes they final made the breakthrough.
Suarez’ pass looked to be going long but Sergio Roberto headed it back into the area from the byline and Dembele sent it past Masip with a side-foot volley.
The pitch was still causing havoc. Messi played a simple pass to Sergio Roberto but he was swallowed up by more loose turf and as he fell Valladolid were able to counter-attack.
Barcelona brought on Arturo Vidal with 15 minutes left with the scorer Dembele replaced. Jordi Alba then seemed to get bogged down in the area as Sergio Gotan rose to head goalwards. It was Valladolid’s penultimate chance to level but Marc Andre ter Stegen smothered the effort comfortably.
In time added on the home side thought they had equalised but for all that Gotan tore his shirt off in wild celebration the referee ruled the goal out correctly for offside after consulting VAR.