Messi Shines as Barcelona Thrash Atlético

September 26, 2011

Lionel Messi scored a spectacular hat-trick as FC Barcelona destroyed Atlético Madrid 5-0 at the Camp Nou on Saturday night. The Argentine forward was a menace throughout, bouncing back to form after a relatively subdued midweek performance against Valencia.

Víctor Valdés’ goal was rarely under threat from Los Colchoneros’ potent frontline, which was starved of space and possession in the face of a magnificent team display by the home side. David Villa opened the scoring, followed by a João Miranda own goal and Messi’s dazzling three-goal haul.

Even after an opening to the season that has seen a great deal of tactical experimentation by Pep Guardiola, Saturday’s formation was very unorthodox. The coach persisted with 3-4-3, but this time Dani Alves was playing as the right-sided defender. Meanwhile Sergio Busquets operated as a kind of attacking sweeper, dropping into defence when needed, but generally patrolling the area in front.

Barça were ahead within 10 minutes – David Villa chested down a 30-yard diagonal pass by Xavi, danced inside João Miranda and tucked the ball past Courtois to cap a fantastic goal. Tiago Mendes had earlier clipped the top of the bar, but Atlético Madrid were yet to settle, and fell further behind through an unfortunate own goal. This time Pedro broke forward, before the ball fell at the feet of Messi, whose shot ricocheted off ‘keeper Courtois and João Miranda, and into the net.

After the second goal it was Lionel Messi who took the limelight. On 25 minutes he took a short throw on the right touchline. Getting the ball back from Pedro, he squirmed past two Atlético players before accelerating past the remainder of the defence with one touch, and smashing home at the near post while feigning for the far corner. It was one of the best of many fantastic individual goals in the course of his short career.

As majestic as this effort was, Messi nearly topped it in the second half when he ran the length of the pitch before being fouled by Perea on the edge of the area. In between, Cesc Fàbregas almost scored with a fabulous 35-yard chip that Courtois could only watch bounce off the top of the cross-bar. Meanwhile there was more good news for Barcelona when Gerard Piqué made his return from injury, replacing Busquets a few minutes after half time.

With 15 minutes to go Lionel Messi once again went about terrorising the Atlético backline. This time he made a diagonal run from about 40 yards out, bypassing central defence before dummying his way round João Miranda and sidefooting past the static Courtois, into the bottom right corner.

He capped an unforgettable performance just before full time when he played a one-two with David Villa, strode forward and guided a finish between Courtois’ legs. It was a fitting end to the night for Barcelona’s number 10, who must already be counted among the greatest ever to play the game.

1-0 Villa (min 9)
2-0 Miranda (own goal) (min 15)
3-0 Messi (min 26)
4-0 Messi (min 77)
5-0 Messi (min 91)

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