Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde: My players struggled to concentrate in empty Nou Camp
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 01/10/17 9:01pm
Ernesto Valverde admitted his Barcelona players struggled to concentrate as they beat Las Palmas 3-0 at an empty Nou Camp amid Sunday's political unrest.
La Liga leaders Barca hosted struggling Las Palmas behind closed doors after a request to have the game postponed due to local turmoil amid the Catalonia independence referendum was rejected.
Final confirmation the game would go ahead - but in an empty stadium - was only communicated 20 minutes before the scheduled kick-off in what was a chaotic build-up.
Consequently, it took Barca's players time to warm to their task. Las Palmas, with new manager Pako Ayestaran in charge for the first time, started well and hit the post through Jonathan Calleri.
Sergio Busquets eventually broke the deadlock four minutes into the second half and Lionel Messi made victory certain with two typically well-taken finishes.
Speaking in his post-match press conference and reported by Tribuna, coach Valverde said: "It was a weird and complicated situation for everyone and it wasn't possible to postpone the game.
"That is why we played behind closed doors, because it was a consensual decision of the club.
"We were not very focused and started with little rhythm. Las Palmas have great players and our mistakes were costing us. In the second half, we were more effective in pressuring them and managed to score.
"The impact of playing at an empty Camp Nou is important. It is not normal to be in a situation like that and we had to overcome those difficulties.
"We wanted to win because we represent a lot of people and we want them to be happy. We are all aware of what happened in Catalonia."
Ayestaran, who was brought in at Las Palmas after Manuel Marquez Roca resigned this week, found plenty of positives in his side's performance.
He said: "We are not happy with the final scoreline but there some good things to have come out of the match.
"We certainly gave Barcelona a battle in terms of possession and the team was able to put into practice the ideas we have set out for them in just a couple of days.
"Our first-half performance is a good place to start from and move on from."