FC Barcelona News
Barcelona lifted the Club World Cup after thrashing Santos FC 4-0 in Yokohama on Sunday. In a constantly one-sided encounter Guardiola’s men created chance after chance, hitting the post twice and forcing numerous close-range saves from Santos’ overworked goalkeeper. Messi got two, and was joined on the scoresheet by Xavi and Cesc.
Guardiola appears to haven chosen this match as an international platform for his 3-4-3 formation – Abidal, Piqué and Puyol lined up across the back. Somewhat unusual was the sight of Dani Alves very high and wide on the right, while Thiago took up similar position on the opposite flank. In between were Iniesta, Xavi, Cesc and Messi, interchanging more than the Brazilian opposition could handle.
With just ten minutes gone the chances began to flow for Barcelona. Messi had an effort from range, which was parried by Rafael into Thiago’s path, but his shot could also only find Santos’ ‘keeper. Shortly after Barcelona were ahead – there was a triangle between Messi, Cesc and Xavi, which resulted in a fabulous through ball by Barça’s captain for Messi, who took his time and dinked a chip over Rafael to open the scoring.
Barcelona doubled their lead no more than five minutes later. Dani Alves, who looked dangerous throughout the half, broke free down the right and crossed low for Xavi, who took one touch just inside the area to evade Bruno, and drilled a shot low to Rafael’s left side.
A great opportunity then followed for Messi – this time he was released by Cesc, but a last-second intervention by Edu Dracena kept him out. This chance was followed by Santos’ only attack of note – playmaker Ganso slipped Borges through, but Valdés reacted quickly to gather his shot.
Directly after, Cesc nearly made it 3-0. To everyone’s surprise the midfielder had stayed onside to collect yet another sublime Xavi pass, but he could only hit the post from close range.
As the half drew to a close, Barcelona did extend their lead – Alves found Messi in the area to spark a scramble that ended when Cesc added the killer touch from six yards to cap a half in which Barcelona played some of their most consistently incisive football of the season.
Within seconds of the restart Barcelona were troubling Santos’ defence once again. Messi set up Cesc and Rafael produced the save of the match to push his shot just past the post. He was then in action soon after to save a close-range Messi effort with his legs.
Midway through the second half Barça sensed that the job was done and attacked with a little less intensity. In this spell Santos had their best chance, when Neymar was set free by Ganso, but Valdés was quick off his line to close the space and preserve the clean-sheet.
Messi then killed the game off, collecting the ball from Alves skipping over Rafael with his second touch and slotting home into the empty net.
0-1 Messi (min 17)
0-2 Xavi (min 24)
0-3 Cesc (min 45)
0-4 Messi (min 82)
Barcelona breezed to the final of the FIFA Club World Cup to set up a meeting with Copa Libertadores Champions Santos FC of Sao Paulo. Goals for Adriano (two), Keita and Maxwell helped the Catalan club to a 4-0 win against Qatari Asian Champions League winners, Al-Sadd, who were unable to muster as much as a shot on target throughout the encounter. Barcelona’s celebrations will be somewhat muted by the news that striker David Villa suffered a fractured fibia in the first half.
Guardiola used the game at Yokohama to give an opportunity to his rotation options, with Mascherano starting in central defence, Seydou Keita in central midfield, Adriano at right-back and Pedro on the left wing. It was a match in which Barcelona were never once troubled, but the slightly gauche attempts by the Al-Sadd players to win possession meant that this was a game watched with dread by most Cules.
It took a little longer than the customary few minutes for Barcelona to find their feet here; Al-Sadd defended very deep, and after no more than a couple of days in Japan, Guardiola’s men needed a while to settle. When they did the chances began to flow; David Villa latched on to a deflected clearance on the right side of the area and forced a low save from Mohamed Saqr in the Qatari’s goal.
The breakthrough followed shortly after. This time Barça took advantage of a comical Al-Sadd mix-up. Algerian defender Nadir Belhhadj nudged the ball back to his ’keeper when it would have been easier to clear. Mohamed Saqr struggled to get the ball under control, leaving Adriano free to steal in and score from no more than a yard out.
Minutes later David Villa suffered his injury. It occured when the Asturian striker attempted to control a loose ball in the Al-Saad area, under pressure from a defender. He looked uncomfortable straight away, but his calm reaction to the incident belied the gravity of the injury, as he now faces a number of months of the sidelines.
Alexis entered the fray in his stead and Barcelona continued to carve chances. On the stroke of half-time Thiago posted Adriano through with a beautiful reverse pass, and the Brazilian utility man found the bottom-left corner, although once again Mohamed Saqr might feel disappointed with his attempted save.
The second half was one of total Barcelona control. Messi was the man who came to the fore. He saw a shot deflected narrowly wide and a free-kick bound for the corner well saved. On the hour mark he was at the centre of a move to make it 3-0, producing a defence-splitting pass to play in Seydou Keita, whose neat finish across Mohamed Saqr nestled just inside the post.
The final goal came from a surprise source; the ever-lively Thiago found Maxwell on the left side of the area, and the Brazilian produced a powerful shot with his left-foot into the bottom-right corner.
0-1 Adriano (min 25)
0-2 Adriano (min 43)
0-3 Keita (min 64)
0-4 Maxwell (min 81)