New Arrivals Shine in Impressive Victory

August 30, 2011

FC Barcelona were in breathtaking form on Monday night as they defeated Villareal 5-0 at the Camp Nou. Playing with a new formation, Guardiola’s men were in total control from start to finish. New recruits Cesc Fàbregas and Alexis Sánchez were among the scorers, while Barca’s latest young talent Thiago Alcântara was in excellent shape, weighing in with a goal and two assists.

But it was Lionel Messi who stole the show, as he so often does, providing one assist for Cesc, and scoring two well-taken goals of his own. The performance was a reminder to all that Barcelona are still the team to beat in the Primera División.

Barcelona started with an unorthodox 3-4-3 formation, especially remarkable because it didn’t include a single recognised striker, and, in Abidal, only one experienced defender. The remainder of the three-man backline included Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano, defensive-midfielders until only last season. Keita played in front of the defence, occasionally dropping back to offer support. Pedro and Alexis provided the attacking width, while Messi, Iniesta Thiago and Cesc interchanged to devastating effect.

With this formation Barça were able to maintain their usual lion’s share of possession, all the while offering even more penetrating runs from deep. Cesc’s movement, working in tandem with Messi, was especially unpredictable.

The first real chance of the half fell to Messi, after being released by a clever reverse pass from Pedro. The new Argentine captain’s shot was saved at the near post by Diego López, and Busquets grazed the crossbar when he rose to meet the ensuing corner.

Barça’s opening goal came after Thiago was found just beyond the halfway line by Cesc. The young midfielder drove forward in a diagonal direction until he reached the Villareal area. When a pass failed to present itself he lashed a left-footed shot into the bottom right corner.

The goal was followed by an isolated reminder of Villareal’s attacking threat, when Rossi latched onto a lofted pass but smashed his effort into the side-netting. At any rate Barcelona were in full control, and doubled their lead before half-time. Messi caressed a sublime through-ball for Cesc, who rounded López to open his league account for Barcelona on his first start.

Pep Guardiola’s men picked up where they left off after the break. Within seconds of the restart Thiago picked out Alexis with a looped pass from the outside of his boot, and the Chilean winger made no mistake one-on-one with Villareal’s exposed ‘keeper.

Just five minutes after this Messi would get on the scoresheet, when he rounded López yet again, after yet another perfect through-ball, this time by Iniesta. Such was Barça’s dominance that they could afford to withdraw both Iniesta and Cesc with more than 20 minutes of the game remaining.

Messi was on the field and still wasn’t finshed; he exchanged passes with Thiago in the Villareal area before tapping home from six yards to make it 5-0.

1-0 Thiago (25′)
2-0 Fabregas (44′)
3-0 Alexis (47′)
4-0 Messi (51′)
5-0 Messi (74′)

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