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Barca boss accepts criticism after resting Messi in shock defeat

Luis Enrique rested Messi, Suarez and Iniesta after the international break
Luis Enrique rested Messi, Suarez and Iniesta after the international break

Luis Enrique lamented a Barcelona performance which he described as fragile defensively and uninspired in the attacking third as they slumped to a 2-1 home defeat to Alaves.

Barcelona appeared disjointed in their return to action after the international break, with Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Luis Suarez all starting on the bench before being brought on without making an impact in the second half.

Javier Mascherano endured arguably his worst night in a Barcelona shirt as he was caught on his heels for Alaves' first from Deyverson in the first half. Jeremy Mathieu levelled early in the second half, but then Mascherano's miscued clearance was seized upon by Ibai Gomez, who wriggled clear of his markers and slotted an angled shot past Jasper Cillessen.

Real Madrid' 5-2 win over Osasuna gives them an early three-point advantage over Barca, whose coach Enrique told the Spanish media: "We were very fragile in defence, an area where we have been very strong in previous years. But also we lacked fluency and precision in attack, it was clear that we were uninspired.

"This match shows how difficult it can be to win, and shows what a great achievement our success over the last few years has been."

The decision to leave Suarez and Messi out of the starting line-up will inevitably bring criticism Enrique's way, with new signing Paco Alcacer enduring a difficult debut after his move from Valencia.

"I am the head coach and I accept it (the criticism)," he added.

"Everything bad that happens is my fault, but hindsight makes it easy to criticise. Any success we create this season will be as a squad, not as 11 players."

He intended to learn from this defeat rather than try to forget about it but felt there were "many things to improve" for his side.

Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets also made no excuses for the defeat, and said in quotes reported by Diario AS: "The schedule is what it is and there are many international matches which happen. But we have been in this situation 20,000 times before and found an answer.

"Alaves have come into the league recently and been very effective, and they made it difficult for us."

"The coach picks the team - no one else. We are all seeking the best for the team and there is no getting around it."

Mathieu missed a glorious chance to put Barcelona ahead two minutes after equalising but blasted wide from close range and Messi then sidefooted wide in the dying seconds to underline that this was not Barcelona's night.

Alaves' match-winner Ibai told Cadena Ser: "We are very excited and we believe with the squad we have we are capable of achieving a lot."