Alexis Steps Up For Barcelona
FC Barcelona strolled past Rayo Vallecano on Tuesday night, beating the team from Madrid 4-0. Alexis Sánchez was one form, scoring two well-taken goals, the first of which was an impressive curled effort. Villa added the third after a slick passing move, and Messi made it four with a trademark solo effort.
Barça fans were handed some welcome good news in the build up to the match, learning that the ever-influential Andrés Iniesta would make his comeback. He joined Keita and Xavi in the midfield, sitting behind a potent attack of Villa, Messi and Alexis. Iniesta nearly marked the occasion early on with a spectacular goal from the halfway line, but his effort was just kept out by Cobeño.
Perhaps heartened by fellow Madrid club Getafe’s achievements on the weekend, Rayo began the match at full throttle, pressing and presumably hoping to take advantage of any hangover for Barcelona. A deep, floated cross found Guinean striker Lass free at the back-post, but his volley hit the side-netting. The 19 year-old was a real nuisance in the opening exchanges, showing pace and willingness to chase lost causes.
Cobeño was then forced back into action by Barcelona, the improving Alexis slipped Alves through, and his cross was deflected goalwards and only kept out on the stretch by Rayo’s ‘keeper. A swirling free-kick nearly caught Valdés out at the back-post.
Then, after a prolonged spell of possession, Barcelona took the lead; Xavi angled a pass to Alexis on the left angle of the area, and the Chilean forward curled a delightful shot in off the far post.
Rayo almost responded in kind. Michel brought the ball down in the area, but pressure from Abidal saw him shoot over.
From then it was all Barcelona, and the home team enjoyed what was perhaps a long overdue slice of luck; Messi fired a pass into Xavi’s feet on the edge of the area. The midfielder miscontrolled, but the ball landed at the feet of Alexis who produced a composed finish with the outside of his boot.
Then Villa capped the satisfying half Guardiola’s men, when he tapped home to make it 3-0 after a Piqué drove forward and released Dani Alves, who squared for the Asturian striker.
The second half was barely underway when Lionel Messi took centre stage. As he so often does, the diminutive Argentine picked the ball up by the right touchline and powered forward; he beat a defender to go one-on-one, and slotted past Cobeño to take the score to 4-0 and end the match as any kind of contest.
With the match in the bag, Guardiola could afford to withdraw Xavi, Inesta and Alexis, and the series of substitutions took the momentum out of the game.
Rayo were effectively spent, and Barcelona maintained possession, while occasionally fashioning chances. Villa’s effort in the 69th minute was spectacular, as he elegantly controlled a long pass and then tried a lob that went just over.
2-0 Alexis Sánchez (min 40)
3-0 Villa (min 42)
4-0 Messi (min 49)