It was the ultimate in killer blows, comical and brutal at the same time, and for such a significant goal, that felt weirdly fitting.
With characteristic audacity, lingering on the ball, Marc-Andre ter Stegen invited pressure before attempting to find Jordi Alba with a chipped pass to the corner flag. Pablo Hernandez closed him down enough for the goalkeeper to kick it straight into Hernandez’s head and back into his own net.
The goal proved to be the winner as Celta Vigo defeated Barcelona 4-3 prior to the international break. It meant that for the second time in two visits the Catalans had conceded four at Balaidos, and Celta had claimed a victory over Barcelona for a third season running.
It also edged “Ter Stegen” a little closer to being a two-word term used to describe the audible sucking of air through teeth.
“It’s clear that the fourth goal killed us,” said an exasperated Luis Enrique afterwards. “But given how the game was going, it didn’t surprise me, either. The third was an own goal and I can’t even tell you about the fourth.”
That fourth was more than just a winner, though. Hernandez’s noggin being in the right place at the right time confirmed this particular weekend as a unique one in this decade.
Only hours earlier, Real Madrid had been held to a draw by Eibar. The day before, Cologne had done the same to Bayern Munich. It was the first time Europe’s hegemonic trio of super clubs had all dropped points on the same weekend since May 2009.
That’s a long time ago. To put it into perspective, to understand how rarely these behemoths slip up all at once, the last time it happened the HTC Hero was the biggest-selling phone around; Barack Obama was a new president; Oasis were still together; Facebook had only just overtaken Myspace as the world’s biggest social networking site; David Moyes was still ginger; Rio was actually happy it had been awarded the Olympics; Manchester City had Mark Hughes, not Pep Guardiola; hashtags were brand new; you could still remember a time when Adam Sandler movies were funny. Yeah, that long.
Barcelona were upset for a third year running by Celta Vigo last night — here are the numbers behind a dramatic #LaLiga upset pic.twitter.com/r4xS2nGNKp
— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) October 3, 2016
There’s a simple explanation for this. These giants rarely drop points together because they rarely drop points at all. The current decade has seen them become wrecking balls that few in history have ever matched, soaring to a point of excellence from which there’s no where else to go. Sometimes, though, such an existence ain’t all that.
In a broad sense, for everyone connected to it and not just those within it, life at the super-club level is a paradoxical thing. Wins, trophies and brilliance are common occurrences, but satisfaction isn’t.
Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern have all already claimed silverware this season and will almost certainly add to that in the coming months. As ever, they remain the leading candidates for the Champions League and own the vast majority of the world’s elite talent between them.
And yet, …