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Barcelona Edges Past Brann in Hard-Fought Victory in Norway

Barça Femení celebrating their victory against Brann / Getty Images
Barça Femení celebrating their victory against Brann / Getty Images

Barcelona narrowly defeated Brann in Norway with goals from Graham and Salma.

Barcelona had to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty to secure a narrow victory over an excellent Brann side in Norway, winning 2-1 thanks to goals from Graham and Salma.

The endless possessions in the early stages of the match suggested that the Norwegian Brann wouldn’t stand a chance against a commanding Barcelona side accustomed to dictating the flow of every game. But that was far from reality. Perhaps due to the freezing atmosphere, with temperatures below 2 degrees, or playing on artificial turf, or facing a rival that had previously managed to draw against the mighty Olympique de Lyon on the same pitch a few months ago. All these factors made Barcelona uncomfortable. Add to that the outstanding performance of the local goalkeeper Aurora Mikalsen, and the result was as tight as it was unusual for the Blaugrana.

The match couldn’t have started better for the visitors, with an early goal from Caroline Graham, who found the net in her homeland, controlling, shifting, and unleashing a powerful shot, albeit with a slight deflection off a defender that caught Mikalsen off guard. More goals could have followed, but the goalkeeper kept the Norwegian side alive, and just before halftime, the surprise struck. It was so unexpected to see Brann score that Kvamme, the goal scorer, celebrated with a look of genuine disbelief, as if to say, “I can’t believe I scored against Barcelona.”

If some thought at halftime that Barcelona would come back and score five goals in the second half, as often happens when teams challenge the Blaugrana, they were mistaken. Jonatan Giráldez’s team, fielding their current best eleven while waiting for Alexia and Rolfö to return to full fitness, struggled right from the start of the second half.

There was a review for a possible penalty for Barcelona after an hour of play for handball in the box, but the Romanian referee, upon VAR review, did not award the penalty. Brann managed to construct an impeccable defensive structure that made it difficult for Barcelona to create chances, especially with a defensive trio containing Graham and preventing her from penetrating from outside to inside. Graham’s talent is immense, and when she couldn’t find a way through, she provided a golden pass to Aitana, who then set up Salma from behind. When Aitana controls the ball with a meter of space inside the box, she’s lethal. A cutback, a shot, and relief for Barcelona.

In the final stages, Alexia and Rolfö came on together, bringing composure to the team and managing the lead until the final whistle. A third goal could have come, but the goalkeeper made another exceptional save, denying a great shot from Aitana. Next Thursday (18:45 h.), the focus will be on securing passage to the semifinals at the Johan Cruyff Stadium.