New Era Begins with Goal GlutAugust 20, 2012
New manager Tito Vilanova got off to an impressive start, as Barcelona cruised past Real Sociedad with a 5-1 win, and David Villa marked his return to fitness by scoring a late goal. Messi got on the score-sheet with two, and he was also joined by Pedro and Puyol in the first half.
It was a match remarkable for its landmarks – the first competitive game for Vilanova as manager, while Jordi Alba marked his first league start at left-back. The transition was as seamless as anyone could have hoped, with Barcelona displaying their famous attacking finesse and putting Real Sociedad to the sword.
The first half was a real goal-fest, as Barcelona settled quickly into their possession game, producing lightning-quick combinations and carving the visitors open time and again. Real Sociedad were swamped, but managed to build a couple of isolated attacks on the break.
There were two goals in the first ten minutes alone. First Puyol rose to head in a Xavi corner, getting the better of Ansotegi who vainly claimed a foul by Barça’s captain.
But less than three minutes after going behind, Real Sociedad responsed with a swift attack. Illarramendi received the ball from Xabi Prieto, and spread it to Chory Castro, whose emphatic finish beat Valdes high at the near post.
At this point, Messi entered the game. And with just 11 minutes on the board, the little Argentine grabbed the lead. Pedro squared a short pass for him, and he let it run across his body, bustled past a marker and dispatched a great effort into the top-left corner.
But he wasn’t done there – five minutes later Cristian Tello strode down the left side and although his cross was a little scuffed, Messi responded faster than anyone and fired the ball home with little fuss.
After four goals in less than 20 minutes the game settled into a pattern of Barcelona attacking with a little more patience, waiting for chances rather than forcing them.
The next big one fell to Messi again, after he was set free by a delightful reverse pass by Cesc. This time Bravo saved with his legs. But then, just before the break, Pedro put Barcelona 4-1 up when he coolly tucked Tello’s accurate cross into the bottom left corner first-time after a stylish passage of touch football.
The second half was a more controlled performance from Barça, remarkable mainly for David Villa reintroduction to the team. He scored with five minutes to go when Iniesta dribbled his way to the byline to the left side of the goal and produced a deft cutback for the Asturian striker, who curled a left-footed shot in to the top-right corner.
Before this a stunning passage of one-touch interplay between Messi and Pedro produced a chance that Messi put just wide.
It was a satisfying night for Barcelona and Vilanova, with injuries to Puyol and Iniesta to dampen the mood at the Camp Nou.
1-0 Puyol (min 3)
1-1 Castro (min 8)
2-1 Messi (min 10)
3-1 Messi (min 15)
4-1 Pedro (min 40)
5-1 Villa (min 82)