Barcelona were beaten 1-2 away to Ajax and although the side were missing key players Lionel Messi, Victor Valdes, Dani Alves, Jordi Alba, Adriano and Sergio Busquets, it was not an excuse for a performance which saw them fall 0-2 down in the first half and then fail to get back on level terms when their rivals were reduced to 10 men early in the second half, reports Xinhua.

Barca's traditional passing game once again let them down and while on other occasions their effectiveness in front of the goal has dug them out of trouble, this time it didn't.

Speaking after the game, central defender Gerard Pique, one of the few players to give a decent performance was highly critical of the display.

"It was the worst first half of the season. We were horrible and there is no excuse," said Pique, adding that "in the second half, with an extra player, we didn't know how to create chances. There are no excuses and we have to improve and reflect because Barcelona can't give that image."

Coach Tata Martino was less critical after suffering his first defeat as Barca coach but was clearly unhappy with some aspects of the defeat.

"We lost the individual battle because we didn't pressure as a team, we lacked the intensity in a Champions League game against a team that is battling to qualify," he said.

Martino was clearly unhappy with the first half display in which Barcelona appeared to lack effort and cohesion."You can't play just 45 minutes in a game, because if you do that in the last 16 or the quarterfinals or the semifinals, it can see you knocked out," he said.

One factor of Martino's reign at Barcelona is that his side has been more willing to surrender possession of the ball to their opponents. This has been criticised as a "betrayal of style" by fans of former coach, Pep Guardiola.

Former manager Tito Vilanova believes Barca's problems on Tuesday stemmed from what they did with the ball at their feet."What was lacking in the first half had more to do with possession of the ball then when we didn't have it. We pressed well, but when your rival looks to play one on one, it unbalances the game. We lacked mobility and pressure," he said.

Former coach, Johan Cruyff, the man who built the famous Barca "Dream Team" in the early 1990s had some thinly veiled criticism for his former club."Barca has to ask why things worked well before and don't work now," said Cruyff.

"It is the same debate as always and it hasn't changed, but I don't want to speak about it, because that is a conversation for a bar, but when a team plays well and dominates the ball, as Ajax did, its normal for them to win," said the Barca legend.

One defeat can be viewed as normal, but Sunday Barcelona travel to play away to Athletic Club Bilbao, who are unbeaten at home in La Liga and whose rapid style, which mixes pressure and possession will be another major test for Martino and his side and one that should they fail, will set the alarm bells ringing.


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