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Martino's message to Barcelona: Time to wake up

His honeymoon period is now officially over. Gerardo Martino has been on the receiving end of his fair share of criticism at Barcelona, despite failing to lose any of his first 20 games in charge at the Catalan club. "Who knows what will happen when we are beaten?" the Argentine quipped recently. Now he knows.

Barca needed only to avoid defeat at Ajax on Tuesday to equal the club's best season start — the 21 games unbeaten under Pep Guardiola in 2011-12. But Martino's men saw the red light in Amsterdam following a dismal display, and this time the 51-year-old was in no mood for fun. Furious at a fumbling first-half show that left his side playing catchup and unable to rescue a point, "Tata" told his players exactly what he thought with a tough talk in the dressing room at the Amsterdam ArenA.

The inquest began at halftime. Pushed onto the back foot, Barca lacked intensity in defense, struggled to keep hold of the ball in midfield and appeared bereft of ideas further forward. It was described by some as the Catalans' worst 45 minutes since the 3-2 loss at Osasuna in 2011-12.

At the interval, Martino demanded more concentration. It's time to wake up, he told his players. And he got it as Barca emerged a different team in the second period. Within four minutes, the Blaugrana had pulled a goal back through Xavi (albeit fortuitously as the foul for the penalty awarded to Neymar had taken place outside the area) and they would play the last 40 minutes with an extra man following the dismissal of Joel Veltman. However, the Ajax wall stood strong and Barca ultimately went home with nothing.


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