The ecstasy created by a Lionel Messi goal in Barcelona's opening 2014-15 La Liga match against Elche was quickly dispelled when Javier Mascherano picked up a red card at Camp Nou on Sunday.
ESPN FC outlined the scene as it unfolded:
Messi gives Barcelona the lead, but WAIT! Red Card to Mascherano just moments later!— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) August 24, 2014
Fox Soccer Trax offered more details on the play that got Mascherano ousted:
44 RED CARD in Barcelona Mascherano -- last man -- trips Rodrigues who was through— FOX Soccer Trax (@FOXSoccerTrax) August 24, 2014
The red card came just before the halftime intermission, leaving Barcelona down to 10 men and needing an exceptional second-half effort to get one point, much less hold on for three.
But as WhoScored.com pointed out, Barca was dominating possession:
Barcelona 1-0 Elche HT: Shots(OT) 7(1) - 3(0), Possession 82% - 18%, Rating 6.72 - 6.20 http://t.co/yNj5nFNYSI— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) August 24, 2014
Mattias Karen of the Associated Press reacted to the craziness that unfolded in light of Mascherano's unceremonious exit from the La Liga opener:
Messi scoring, Mascherano getting sent off. So far, Luis Enrique hasn't changed much at Barcelona.— Mattias Karén (@MattiasKaren) August 24, 2014
Perhaps Mascherano's misfortune was already written in light of this unique chase, per AS.com:
No-one told Mascherano frightening black cats can bring bad luck. pic.twitter.com/hOFCAqqolR— AS English (@English_AS) August 24, 2014
The team's official Twitter account pondered how manager Luis Enrique would compensate for Mascherano's absence with regard to tactics:
45 minutes to go with 10 men, what will the boss do? Three man defence? Rakitic or Busquets in back four? Bring on Bartra? #fcblive— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 24, 2014
Napoli manager Rafa Benitez commented recently on how Mascherano has found a comfortable home as a member of Barcelona.
"He has two years left on his contract. They know he is an important player, they talked to him and made him feel more important," said Benitez, via Goal.com's Joe Wright (h/t Sky Sports Italia).
How will Barcelona fare against Villarreal without Javier Mascherano?
Ivan Rakitic scored toward the beginning of the second half as it was, so Barcelona and their fans have evidently rallied for the cause to make up for Mascherano's premature departure. If any team has the offensive firepower to make up for the loss of a valuable player, it's Barca.
The bigger concern is that Mascherano is suspended for the next league match, which will be on the road at Villarreal. That will be a far stiffer test, but at least Barca will be at full strength in an effort to get some early-season La Liga momentum.