Camp Nou Says ‘Thanks’ to Pep
The Camp Nou said a fond farewell to Pep Guardiola on Saturday night after Barcelona defeated Espanyol 4-0, with Lionel Messi grabbing all four goals. The Argentine got two from the penalty spot, one from a free-kick and another after latching onto a long pass.
Before Barcelona’s final home game of the season, the Camp Nou took the opportunity to thank Pep Guardiola for four seasons of unrivalled success, unfurling a giant banner with “We Love You, Pep” in Catalan. The visit of Espanyol offered an opportunity to bring his tenure as coach to a close with a win against one of the club’s two biggest rivals.
The first half was largely a quiet affair, though Barcelona were in near constant control. After a tentative opening, Messi jolted the game to life in the 11th minute when he curled a 25-yard free-kick past Cristian Alvarez to score his 47th goal in the league this season.
For much of the rest of the half Barça dominated possession, but Espanyol were resolute in defence and kept clear opportunities to a minimum.
Barcelona were equally watertight at the back, but going forward found their best chances coming from direct free-kicks. Iniesta forced Cristian Álvarez to make an excellent low diving save to keep out a free-kick destined for the bottom-right corner, and on the stroke of half-time another fine effort by Messi from the left hit the side-netting past the left post of the goal.
The home team’s superiority continued into the second half, and Barça began to get closer to the Espanyol goal, with Iniesta seeing two shots go narrowly wide – once after being put through by Pedro and later when a close range effort was deflected past the near post by an Espanyol defender after good interplay with Adriano.
Then in the 63rd minute Messi won a penalty. In a relatively debatable decision, Barça’s number 10 flicked the ball up and it caught the elbow of Cristian Gómez as he attempted to block. Messi scored his 48th of the season as he waited for the ‘keeper to move before sending the ball home off the right hand post.
Over the next ten minutes Espanyol enjoyed their best spell of the game when Forlín drove a volley at goal that Pinto pushed just wide of his right post, and later Mascherano produced a fantastic goal-line clearance after Weiss had got the better of Pinto.
But immediately after, Messi chested a long diagonal pass down, outpaced Víctor Sánchez and found the bottom right corner with a cool finish. The celebrations had barely finished when Busquets was felled in the penalty area by Forlín. Once again Messi stepped up to take the spot-kick and smashed the ball into the net to claim his 50th league goal of the season. The entire team then ran across to Pep Guardiola to celebrate together. And at full-time Guardiola took to the centre-circle to say goodbye to the fans amid emotional scenes.
1-0 Messi (min 11)
2-0 Messi (min 62)
3-0 Messi (min 72)
4-0 Messi (min 77)
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