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Match report

No Luck for Barcelona in Derby

January 9th, 2012

Barcelona had to settle for a 1-1 draw away to Espanyol in the derby on Sunday night. Cesc headed Barça into an early lead, but his side was unable to build on it, and was pegged back at the death by Álvaro Vázquez. It was a tense, hard-fought encounter, in which key refereeing decisions went against Guardiola’s men.

The big story at kick-off was Iniesta’s return to the side, recovering from a strain picked up before the winter break. He took his place in a strong team, on the left side of central midfield in a 4-3-3.

Espanyol came flying out the traps in front of a raucous crowd at the Estadi Cornellà-El Prat, closing down Barcelona’s defenders at a ferocious tempo, and breaking quickly whenever in possession. Their pressure almost paid off in the first ten minutes when Sergio García rushed clear down the left side of the area and crossed for Verdú, whose initial headed effort was miraculously saved by Valdés, and Piqué was ready on the line to clear the follow up.

Barcelona soon woke up though and forced a number of close calls. First Cesc thought he’d scored when Messi intercepted Álvarez’ clearance and squared for him, but replays showed a handball by Messi in the build up. Alexis then went one-on-one with Álvarez, but never looked confident and was hustled wide by the ‘keeper. On their next attack though, Barcelona took the lead. Dani Alves surged forward down the right and picked out Cesc with a perfect cross. Cesc’s header was powerful and aimed at the bottom corner. Álvarez got his fingertips to it, but couldn’t keep it out.

The remainder of the half was relatively even, with both teams forcing slight openings without capitalising. Abidal had to be sharp to block a Thievy shot inside the area. At the other end Barça continued to threaten as Alexis posted Iniesta through, but his left-footed effort was deflected away by Álvarez. Puyol made a crucial block from Verdú, and then just before the half-time whistle Cesc cleverly turned past an Espanyol defender on the byline, but his close-range strike hit the outside of the near post.

The game remained poised at 1-0 after the break, with no clear sight of goal for either side. It wasn’t until half an hour in that some space opened up for Barça – Pedro, on for Alexis, fired a deep low cross that Messi met on the stretch with his right boot, ricocheting off the near-post and into the side-netting.

Espanyol hadn’t created much, but took their opportunity with 86 minutes gone. Raúl Rodríguez was released down the right and his cross was headed on by Thievy for Álvaro Vázquez to score from no more than a couple of yards out. Then in injury time Barcelona had real reason to feel aggrieved – Messi played Piqué in, and after his shot crashed off the cross-bar, Pedro’s follow-up was clearly pushed away by Raul Rodriguez’ arm.

0-1 Cesc (min 15)
1-1 Alvaro (min 85)


Stylish Barcelona Overcome Osasuna

January 5th, 2012

Cesc Fàbregas and Lionel Messi helped bring FC Barcelona within touching distance of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals, each scoring two goals in a comfortable 4-0 first leg victory over Osasuna at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night.

Barcelona settled quickly in this game, showing no signs of rust after their two-week break. A couple of early forays aside, Osasuna were soon pinned back in their own half by the home team’s intelligent passing and movement. Alves dragged a left-footed shot just wide – the livewire Brazilian would be a constant threat down the right wing, given even more freedom playing in front of a three-man defence.

It didn’t take long for Barcelona to make the breakthrough. Alves carried the ball inside from the right, feeding Xavi, whose close control helped him evade three defenders before laying a pass on for Cesc to score an easy tap in.

Cuenca was also impressive down the left flank – he worked some space before finding Alves on the opposite flank, who once again worked the ball to Xavi, but the captain could only shoot just wide.

By now the attacks were relentless and it was no surprise when Barcelona doubled their lead. With 20 minutes gone Xavi fed Cesc on the edge of the area, who controlled the ball on the turn with an immaculate first touch, before clipping a perfectly weighted chip over the head of Riesgo in the Osasuna goal.

Barcelona were looking reinvigorated after their winter break, and continued to carve out chances. Riesgo needed to react quickly to close range shots from Puyol and Thiago, as Osasuna somehow managed to maintain a two-goal deficit. At the end of the half he was called upon once more, tipping a chip by Dani Alves over the bar after a jinking run by the Brazilian.

There were a few contentious moments early on in the second half. Cuenca was clearly fouled on the edge of the penalty are as he skipped past Damià, but referee Borbalán wasn’t interested. Then Messi, on for Pedro, was held back as he bustled into the Osasuna area, but also saw his appeals waved away.

Within minutes of Messi’s entry though, Barcelona once again looked formidable in attack. The Argentine missed the goal by a matter of centimetres after wriggling past two defenders, swapping passes with Alves and neatly chipping the stranded Riesgo.

It mattered little though as Messi would be on the scoresheet minutes later. After Osasuna failed to clear a goalmouth scramble, Cesc aimed a cross to the far post and Messi produced his now customary leap to nod the ball home. He nearly got another shortly after, when Alexis teed him up in the six-yard box, but Riesgo made yet another reaction stop.

There was still time for one more goal. Xavi looked up and saw Messi open on the left-side of the box. The diminutive Argentine turned, looked up and curled a shot past Riesgo to complete an assured performance.

1-0 Cesc (min 13)
2-0 Cesc (min 18)
3-0 Messi (min 74)
4-0 Messi (min 94)


Nine Goal Barcelona Run Riot

December 23rd, 2011

Barcelona are through to the next round of the Copa del Rey, demolishing minnows Hospitalet in a goal-fest at the Camp Nou. It was a win made at Barça’s academy, with every outfield player having been brought through the club’s youth ranks.

Mindful perhaps of the relatively slender 1-0 lead achieved in the first leg, Pep opted for a mix of youth and experience against the Segunda B opponents. Amongst the younger players taking their place in the 3-4-3 were Fontàs, Thiago and Cuenca, while Sergi Roberto and Cristian Tello were to come on in the first half.

It was a half completely run by the home side, but Hospitalet were first to conjure an opportunity – Striker Prats headed a free-kick narrowly wide. Thereafter Barcelona were relentless in attack. After ten minutes Isaac Cuenca wriggled free of Moussa on the byline, and the left-back tugged back Barça’s winger on the edge of the area. The referee signalled for a penalty, which was slightly harsh on the away team. Pedro was in no mood for charity, clinically slotting his spot-kick into the bottom left corner.

Minute later Xavi threaded a forensic through-pass for Cesc on the right side of the area. Barça’s number 4 looked up and squared for Iniesta, who found the net from no more than five yards to double the lead. Seconds had passed when Thiago pounced on Hospi defender Castaño’s indecision. The young midfielder was perfectly composed, junking past Craviotto and passing into the empty goal.

Then came a moment that took some gloss off the evening; Iniesta contested a loose ball and was clattered by Hospi’s goalkeeper, which forced Barça’s attacking midfielder from the pitch with a thigh injury. Initial reports were optimistic though, predicting an absence of no more than a couple of weeks.

Sergi Roberto replaced him, and the chances continued to flow. After point-blank saves and goal-line clearances, Hospitalet conceded once more with 35 minutes on the clock. Cesc lofted a sublime pass for Xavi, who scored at the near-post on the volley.

The lead was then extended to 5-0. Cristian Tello, on for Xavi, picked up the ball on the halfway line and, unopposed, ran straight for the opponents’ goal and found the bottom-right corner with a cool finish.

The rout continued into the second half. Tello showed electric pace to get to the byline on the left-side, cutting back for Cuenca who smashed the ball first-time under Craviatto’s dive. Then Cuenca broke free into the area, but was crudely hauled back by Hospi defender Viale. Thiago scored from the spot, and now the score was 7-0.

Tello, who was something of a revelation in this game, was next to add to the score, receiving the ball from Sergi Roberto and curling a classy right-footed shot past Craviotto on 64 minutes. Into the last ten minutes, Cuenca grabbed his second of the night, picked out by Cesc and crashing home from the right side of the area.

1-0 Pedro (min 11)
2-0 Iniesta (min 18)
3-0 Thiago (min 22)
4-0 Xavi (min 35)
5-0 Tello (min 42)
6-0 Cuenca (min 47)
7-0 Thiago (min 53)
8-0 Tello (min 62)
9-0 Cuenca (min 79)


Magnificent Barcelona are World Champions Once More

December 18th, 2011

Barcelona lifted the Club World Cup after thrashing Santos FC 4-0 in Yokohama on Sunday. In a constantly one-sided encounter Guardiola’s men created chance after chance, hitting the post twice and forcing numerous close-range saves from Santos’ overworked goalkeeper. Messi got two, and was joined on the scoresheet by Xavi and Cesc.

Guardiola appears to haven chosen this match as an international platform for his 3-4-3 formation – Abidal, Piqué and Puyol lined up across the back. Somewhat unusual was the sight of Dani Alves very high and wide on the right, while Thiago took up similar position on the opposite flank. In between were Iniesta, Xavi, Cesc and Messi, interchanging more than the Brazilian opposition could handle.

With just ten minutes gone the chances began to flow for Barcelona. Messi had an effort from range, which was parried by Rafael into Thiago’s path, but his shot could also only find Santos’ ‘keeper. Shortly after Barcelona were ahead – there was a triangle between Messi, Cesc and Xavi, which resulted in a fabulous through ball by Barça’s captain for Messi, who took his time and dinked a chip over Rafael to open the scoring.

Barcelona doubled their lead no more than five minutes later. Dani Alves, who looked dangerous throughout the half, broke free down the right and crossed low for Xavi, who took one touch just inside the area to evade Bruno, and drilled a shot low to Rafael’s left side.

A great opportunity then followed for Messi – this time he was released by Cesc, but a last-second intervention by Edu Dracena kept him out. This chance was followed by Santos’ only attack of note – playmaker Ganso slipped Borges through, but Valdés reacted quickly to gather his shot.

Directly after, Cesc nearly made it 3-0. To everyone’s surprise the midfielder had stayed onside to collect yet another sublime Xavi pass, but he could only hit the post from close range.

As the half drew to a close, Barcelona did extend their lead – Alves found Messi in the area to spark a scramble that ended when Cesc added the killer touch from six yards to cap a half in which Barcelona played some of their most consistently incisive football of the season.

Within seconds of the restart Barcelona were troubling Santos’ defence once again. Messi set up Cesc and Rafael produced the save of the match to push his shot just past the post. He was then in action soon after to save a close-range Messi effort with his legs.

Midway through the second half Barça sensed that the job was done and attacked with a little less intensity. In this spell Santos had their best chance, when Neymar was set free by Ganso, but Valdés was quick off his line to close the space and preserve the clean-sheet.

Messi then killed the game off, collecting the ball from Alves skipping over Rafael with his second touch and slotting home into the empty net.

0-1 Messi (min 17)
0-2 Xavi (min 24)
0-3 Cesc (min 45)
0-4 Messi (min 82)


Barcelona Stroll Tainted by Villa Injury

December 15th, 2011

Barcelona breezed to the final of the FIFA Club World Cup to set up a meeting with Copa Libertadores Champions Santos FC of Sao Paulo. Goals for Adriano (two), Keita and Maxwell helped the Catalan club to a 4-0 win against Qatari Asian Champions League winners, Al-Sadd, who were unable to muster as much as a shot on target throughout the encounter. Barcelona’s celebrations will be somewhat muted by the news that striker David Villa suffered a fractured fibia in the first half.

Guardiola used the game at Yokohama to give an opportunity to his rotation options, with Mascherano starting in central defence, Seydou Keita in central midfield, Adriano at right-back and Pedro on the left wing. It was a match in which Barcelona were never once troubled, but the slightly gauche attempts by the Al-Sadd players to win possession meant that this was a game watched with dread by most Cules.

It took a little longer than the customary few minutes for Barcelona to find their feet here; Al-Sadd defended very deep, and after no more than a couple of days in Japan, Guardiola’s men needed a while to settle. When they did the chances began to flow; David Villa latched on to a deflected clearance on the right side of the area and forced a low save from Mohamed Saqr in the Qatari’s goal.

The breakthrough followed shortly after. This time Barça took advantage of a comical Al-Sadd mix-up. Algerian defender Nadir Belhhadj nudged the ball back to his ’keeper when it would have been easier to clear. Mohamed Saqr struggled to get the ball under control, leaving Adriano free to steal in and score from no more than a yard out.

Minutes later David Villa suffered his injury. It occured when the Asturian striker attempted to control a loose ball in the Al-Saad area, under pressure from a defender. He looked uncomfortable straight away, but his calm reaction to the incident belied the gravity of the injury, as he now faces a number of months of the sidelines.

Alexis entered the fray in his stead and Barcelona continued to carve chances. On the stroke of half-time Thiago posted Adriano through with a beautiful reverse pass, and the Brazilian utility man found the bottom-left corner, although once again Mohamed Saqr might feel disappointed with his attempted save.

The second half was one of total Barcelona control. Messi was the man who came to the fore. He saw a shot deflected narrowly wide and a free-kick bound for the corner well saved. On the hour mark he was at the centre of a move to make it 3-0, producing a defence-splitting pass to play in Seydou Keita, whose neat finish across Mohamed Saqr nestled just inside the post.

The final goal came from a surprise source; the ever-lively Thiago found Maxwell on the left side of the area, and the Brazilian produced a powerful shot with his left-foot into the bottom-right corner.

0-1 Adriano (min 25)
0-2 Adriano (min 43)
0-3 Keita (min 64)
0-4 Maxwell (min 81)


Barcelona Make a Statement at the Bernabeu

December 12th, 2011

Barcelona have landed a major blow on bitter rivals Real Madrid, winning 3-1 at the Santiago Bernabéu. Goals from Alexis, Xavi and Cesc ensured a gutsy comeback and memorable result for Barça after sloppy play by Valdés had gifted Madrid an early goal through Benzema.

Perhaps the only surprise in Guardiola’s lineup was the absence of David Villa, who dropped to the bench – surely a result of the exciting form of Cesc and Alexis in recent weeks. And in some ways the formation was less overtly attacking than expected, with Cesc and the electric Iniesta joining and instigating attacks, but retaining a certain degree of discipline. Alexis was always furthest forward, probing across the frontline, while Messi operated in his deeper central role.

Barcelona got off to a dreadful start; Real Madrid pressed an early backpass to Valdés, and the ‘keeper made a hash of his kick, tamely finding Di Maria on the edge of the area. Busquets made two desperate blocks, but both fell to Madrid players – the second dropped at Benzema’s feet and the striker smashed his easy finish home from five yards with just a minute on the clock.

Understandably, Barça took time to find some composure. There were a few hairy moments for their backline, but it would be Messi who had the next real chance. He seized on a Ramos slip, jinked past Pepe, but saw his low effort saved on the stretch by Casillas. Two chances followed for Madrid – first for Benzema, whose header was well gathered by Valdés; then for a subdued Cristiano who had a close-range opportunity but sliced it wide.

From here Barcelona started to find their feet, keeping possession for longer spells. And by half an hour they were back in the game. Messi was the architect, bursting forward from the halfway line, dodging three tackles and posting Alexis through on goal. Under pressure from Pepe and Coentrão the Chilean found the bottom-right corner with precision.

With Barcelona’s ascendancy continuing into the second half it was probably no surprise that Real Madrid were becoming more forceful in the 50-50s, and the rancour that had plagued last season’s fixtures resurfaced intermittently. Ramos, Alonso, Pepe and Diarra were all booked, as increasingly dangerous tackles started to fly in.

Then, after a period of sustained possession, Xavi lashed a volley on goal from outside the area. Marcelo got a block in, but the ball skewed off his shin and span beyond the despairing reach of Casillas. Real Madrid were finding it increasingly difficult to get forward, but still posed a threat; Cristiano somehow managed to head a cross by Kaka wide from six yards.

The home team was punished almost instantly by a slick counter-attack. Messi set Alves free down the right wing, and Cesc stooped to meet his deep cross at the back-post to take the score to 3-1. There were subsequent chances for both teams, but the result never looked in doubt for Barcelona

1-0 Benzema (min 1)
1-1
Alexis (min 29)
1-2
Xavi (min 52)
1-3 Cesc (min 65)


Barcelona’s Young Stars Breeze Past BATE

December 7th, 2011

FC Barcelona triumphed 4-0 at the Camp Nou against Belarusian side BATE Borisov on Tuesday night, despite fielding a side composed mostly of young Barça B players. Midfielder Sergi Roberto opened the scoring in the first half, before Martín Montoya and two goals from Pedro completed a commanding performance.

With qualification and top spot firmly secured, Guardiola was able to offer a tantalising glimpse of Barcelona’s future, giving game time to highly rated young talents like Sergi Roberto, Martín Montaya and Rafinha, the brother of Thiago, who also started the match tonight. Meanwhile Isaac Cuenca continued his recent run in the first team and demonstrated throughout the evening that he has what it takes to hold his position down as the season wears on.

From the first whistle, Barça asserted control of this encounter – with just a couple of minutes on the clock Rafinha worked some space in the area and got a shot away, but BATE ‘keeper Gutor pushed it wide at the near post.

Rafinha was operating in Messi’s withdrawn forward position and looked very lively in the opening stages, also heading a Maxwell cross just over. The ever-improving Cuenca lashed a 25-yeard shot just wide, and also instigated a fine move that Sergi Roberto fired just wide.

At the other end Marc Bartra showed great presence of mind, flicking an awkward BATE cross over the head of an onrushing attacker.

Minutes later it was Sergi Roberto who would open the scoring – Thiago strode forward, and when his attempted pass to Pedro was cut out, Sergi was on hand to tuck the ball clinically into the bottom corner.

Martín Montoya, the right-back also had an impressive night, overlapping time and again to get into dangerous attacking positions. He might have had an assist in the first half, but went one better on the stroke of the hour, when he played a fabulous one-two with Isaac Cuenca before taking the ball in his stride a producing a calm finish into the roof of the net.

By now Barcelona were playing with supreme confidence and it was a joy to watch, especially against what should be considered relatively seasoned opposition. The move of the night came a matter of minutes after the second goal. After a delightful passage of pass and move, Cuenca got possession at the byline and cut the ball back for Pedro, who finished first time through Gutor’s legs.

Isaac Cuenca was pulling the strings for his tea, and BATE had no answer. With ten minutes to go he picked up the ball from just outside the area and smashed a shot that clipped the corner of the post. And it would be Cuenca who played a role in the final goal of the night as well. In the closing staged he drew a foul from BATE midfielder Volodko, and Pedro sent the ‘keeper the wrong way from the penalty spot to add extra gloss to an impressive night’s work.

1-0 Sergi Roberto (min 34)
2-0 Montoya (min 58)
3-0 Pedro (min 61)
4-9 Pedro (min 86)


Thrashing for Levante

December 5th, 2011

Barcelona were back to their free-scoring best on Saturday night, trouncing Levante 5-0 at the Camp Nou. Cesc opened the scoring, and then made it two with a fine header after half an hour. Cuenca got the third, before Messi and Alexis completed the rout.

Guardiola reverted to a 3-4-3, which hadn’t been seen for a couple of months. Puyol started between Abidal and Mascherano, behind an all-Spanish midfield four of Iniesta, Xavi, Busquets and Cesc. At the apex of the side were Alexis, Messi and youngster Isaac Cuenca.

This was a match in which Barcelona never looked troubled; they controlled possession from the first minute, and the fluency that was so lacking a week ago at Getafe appears to have been recovered.

The first goal, just four minutes into the game, epitomised Barça’s rediscovered confidence. Messi fired a pass into the feet of Andres Iniesta, and the ever-stylish midfielder produced a perfect back-heeled flick to thread the ball through to Cesc in the clear, who in turn produced a clinical low finish past the stranded Munúa.

Xavi and Messi went close with free kicks; the latter was parried by Munúa into Puyol’s path, but the veteran defender just couldn’t make a connection. At any rate, his side was combining well, and Levante’s backline was forced into a series of rash tackles, leaving three of four with bookings by the half–hour mark.

After yet another foul on the edge of the penalty area, Xavi whipped in a free-kick that Cesc met with a smart glancing header that flew into the top corner, giving the goalkeeper no chance. The game was then put beyond doubt with a few minutes of the first half remaining. Messi embarked on one of his classic right to left dribbles before feeding Iniesta on the edge of the area, who in turn laid the ball off for Isaac Cuenca. Barça’s latest young star took his tally for the season to two, and made it three on the night for his team with a low curling shot, into the bottom right corner.

Valdés then had to react quickly to keep Kone out, but Barcelona were comfortable going into the break.

The second half was more of the same for els Culés, apart from personnel; Puyol had been withdrawn for Alves after colliding with Kone, and Keita replaced Sergio Busquets in the midfield.

Levante did manage to create a chance early on though, when del Horno rose to head a Javi Venta free-kick goalwards, but Valdés equal to the effort, pushing it round the post.

Barcelona were quick to reassert themselves – Dani Alves spotted Messi free on the right side of the area, and when the little Argentine went one-on-one there would be only one outcome, with Barça striding to a four goal lead. Five minutes later Alexis added another, finishing a slick passing move with an attempted lob that deflected off del Horno’s back and clipped the underside of the crossbar.

1-0 Fábregas (min 3)
2-0 Fábregas (min 32)
3-0 Isaac Cuenca (min 36)
4-0 Messi (min 53)
5-0 Alexis (min 59)


Alexis Steps Up For Barcelona

November 30th, 2011

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.

1-0 Alexis Sánchez (min 28)
2-0 Alexis Sánchez (min 40)
3-0 Villa (min 42)
4-0 Messi (min 49)

Muted Barcelona Slip to First Defeat

November 28th, 2011

Barcelona lost their unbeaten record on Saturday night, slumping to a 1-0 defeat at Getafe. Guardiola’s men were subdued for most of the encounter, and fell to a header from Azulones’ defender Juan Valera.

Guardiola rested Fábregas for this match, opting for a midfield of Thiago, Sergio and Xavi, behind Messi, Alexis and Villa in attack. Getafe are a side with a decent home record, having overcome local rivals Atlético Madrid at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez at the start of the month.

And indeed, it turned out to be a tough night for Barça against a rugged and committed Getafe team. For the first half hour there were few opportunities for either outfit, with Barcelona struggling to get into their stride due to a mix of pressing by Getafe and their own occasional sloppiness.

Still, the away team might have been one-up in the second minute, when Alves slipped Villa free on the right side of the area. Moya tipped the ball wide, and that would be the sum of Barcelona’s chances for much of the first period. There were a couple of efforts from long-range free-kicks, and Getafe also had occasional sightings of goal, but two teams were largely cancelling each other out.

With around ten minutes of the first period to go, Barça started to find their rhythm; Moya had to be quick to snuffle out a one-on-one with Messi, add then a stylish flowing move ended with a Alves cutback and Alexis shot that Moya managed to push wide. Then another fleet attack led to another effort from Alexis, that too a dangerous deflection, carrying it just over the bar.

If Guardiola was hoping from a response from his players he’d have been a little disappointed, as Getafe enjoyed a degree of comfort after the break.

Worse still, after 20 minutes Getafe took the lead with one of their few spells in the Barcelona half. Sarabia curled a corner in, and Valera cropped up behind Busquets to head home.

Barcelona looked tired and were slow to respond, but Guardiola threw on Pedro and Cuenca in a bid to open up the stubborn home side. And it was Pedro who would have the next chance, breaking free on the right side of the area, but only able to shoot straight at Moya.

Barcelona piled on the pressure, but found Getafe increasingly frustrating, and the home side might even have doubled their lead when Miku broke free, only to shoot wide.

Then, as the clock wound down there were three moments of great drama; first Sergio went down in the area after wriggling free, but was issued a yellow card. Barça then had the ball in the net after a move between Messi and Keita, but the Malian midfielder was narrowly offside. With stoppage time all but over, Messi brought the ball into the area, but could only hit the post, bringing at end to what was a night to forget for Barcelona.

1-0 Valera (min 66)


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