Many commentators in Spain were already writing off FC Barcelona under Gerardo Martino after a couple of poor results, seemingly forgetting the string of successes that came before. But another solid result on Saturday night after Barcelona’s thrashing of Celtic during the week should silence the critics, at least until they drop another point.
Not everything went Barça’s way, of course, and Villarreal put on a good fight. However, Barcelona dominated possession and while they were unable to do as much as may have been hoped, they also prevented Villarreal from doing much either. In the end the opening goal was scored by Neymar from the penalty spot following a hand ball at the half hour mark and despite a promising attempt on the goal by Alexis, the first half ended 1-0.
Back on after the break the visitors were quick to equalise, but Barcelona remained unperturbed. And 20 minutes into the second half Barcelona were rewarded with a second goal from Neymar, set up by Alexis. While there were some who criticised the decision to sign Neymar at the start of the season he is proving his worth at the moment. With Messi injured, the Brazilian seems to have found himself within the team and in the last two matches scored a total of five goals.
1-0 Neymar (min 29)
1-1 Musacchio (min 46)
2-1 Neymar (min 66)
If anyone really believed that Barcelona had lost their mojo after the couple of recent defeats, they must have changed their mind after last night’s display against Celtic. The Catalans came on looking like they meant business and within the first few minutes, while the visitors barely touched the ball, Barcelona were clearly on the attack and it took just six minutes before Pique put Barça ahead.
Barcelona continued to dominate possession, clearly in control of the match, and it looked as if the second was only a matter of waiting. Although it is perhaps surprising that the second goal, by Pedro, came nearly half an hour later Neymar’s first of the evening a couple of minutes before the break meant Barcelona had all but sealed the result.
In the second half Barcelona continued their onslaught when Neymar scored his second of the night. And ten minutes later he made it a hat trick to put Barça 5 goals ahead, his first Champions League goals and first hat trick for Barcelona.
With Tello brought on in place of Alexis it took just a few minutes before he too scored, when his shot rebounded off the heel of a Celtic defender and into the goal. And then, in the closing minutes of the match Celtic finally came to life. Samaras has a couple of good attempts on the Barça goal and scored to leave the final score at 6-1.
1-0 Piqué (min 6)
2-0 Pedro (min 39)
3-0 Neymar (min 43)
4-0 Neymar (min 46)
5-0 Neymar (min 56)
6-0 Tello (min 70)
6-1 Samaras (min 86)
While Barcelona had already earned their place in the next round, AC Milan’s goalless draw with Ajax meant that they would have ended at the top of the table anyway. However, after the recent criticism levelled at the team this result showed firmly that they mean business. We’ll learn who Barcelona faces next on Monday, with the next round taking place in Februay.
After a couple of disappointing results against Ajax and then Athletic Bilbao, Friday saw Barcelona play their first Copa del Rey match against Cartagena from Segunda División B.
Although there was never a real chance of the hosts making a big impact against Barça, they did do enough to create a slight upset at the quarter hour mark when Fernando scored the opener. However, with the Catalans back in their stride and creating chances Pedro equalised after 35 minutes; and just a few minutes later Cesc put Barcelona in the lead.
Following the break there was plenty of opportunity for Barça, who completely overwhelmed Cartagena, but it wasn’t until nearly 30 minutes into the second half that Pedro scored his second of the night. Now comfortably in the lead, Alexis was brought off in exchange for Jean Marie Dongou, making his debut for the first team. And what a night it will be for him to remember after he put the ball into the Cartagena net off a rebound.
1-0 Fernando (min 15)
1-1 Pedro (min 35)
1-2 Fábregas (min 42)
1-3 Pedro (min 74)
1-4 Dongou (min 88)
Following their defeat by Ajax last week, Barcelona headed for Bilbao on Sunday evening to play against Athletic, one team that should never be underestimated in the Spanish league. Following their disappointing result against the Dutch team in the Champions League, Martino’s men would have been looking for a confidence booster, but although they began strongly they failed to capitalise on their high possession rate early on and in the end suffered the first league defeat of the season.
In the first half an hour or so the match seemed to be going Barça’s way, dominating possession and coming close to scoring on several occasions. However, as the home side began to find their stride it became clear that this was going to be no walkover for Barça but even so the first half ended with neither side having scored.
Back on after the break it looked as if Neymar would be the one to break the deadlock. He missed a great opportunity and then was brought down just outside the area; the resulting free kick by Neymar went wide. After this Athletic seemed to get stronger, with Pinto called into action, but finally they made the breakthrough in the 69th minute to go ahead. Despite making a couple of changes, Barcelona just couldn’t get back into the game and offered little threat to the Athletic Bilbao goal before the final whistle went on their first league defeat this season.
1-0 Muniain (min 69)
With Barcelona already sure of their place in the knockout stage of the Champions League, last night’s result was always going to be pretty much irrelevant to them despite the club’s stated intention of playing to win. However, with a number of key players still absent through injury, including Leo Messi, Dani Alves and Victor Valdes, Martino was forced to field an under strength squad.
An under-strength Barça is still world class though and so it was almost a shock to see how much control Ajax were able to exert, clearly dominating from the start. In fact it was surprising to see that at one point Barcelona had just 45% possession; often it is 70% even against titans such as Real Madrid. In the end it was no great surprise when Ajax scored the opener after 18 minutes, which had the effect of spurring the Catalans on and Neymar coming close to equalising, but it was the Dutch side that scored again after a Pinto deflection allowed a second chance to go in.
Back on after the break Neymar had a good chance at goal, only to be brought down in the area. With Veltan shown a red for his efforts, Xavi scored from the penalty spot and playing against 10 men possession shifted slightly in Barça’s favour. However, they just weren’t able to do quite enough and in the countdown to the final whistle Martino elected to bring on some youngsters.
1-0 Serero (min 18)
2-0 Hoesen (min 41)
2-1 Xavi (min 49)
While the result makes no real difference to Barcelona, having already ensured their place in the next round, the loss follows an run of 28 matches undefeated for Barça. On the other hand it was positive news for Ajax, although they must beat Milan for a place in the last 16.
Following the international break, and with a number of key players injured, Granada visited the Nou Camp on Saturday afternoon for a match attended by many kids thanks to the early start. Although Lionel Messi was one of those injured he showed off his latest Golden Boot, which he was awarded on Wednesday for a record third time as the highest scoring player in Europe last season. He has also been nominated again for the Player of the Year, which he has now won an incredible four times.
Despite lacking some key players, the team went all out right from the start, but despite a number of attempts on the Granada goal it was only after Cesc Fabregas was brought down in the area that allowed Iniesta to score the first from the penalty spot. Granada didn’t take that lying down though and soon were to make an attempt on the Barça goal, striking the crossbar and another attempt was stopped by reserve keeper Pinto, in place of injured Valdes. With the ball back under Barça’s control and in the Granada area, a second penalty was awarded after Iniesta was brought down. This time it was Cesc who put the ball away.
Back on after the break Pedro came close to scoring a third for the Catalans, but the ball went over the bar and soon after was brought down by Iturra; with two yellow cards, Granada was now down to 10 players. However, after making another attempt on the Barcelona goal, Neymar set up Alexis to make it 3-0. Finally, after a number of changes in the last 10 minutes, Pedro put the ball home to make it 4-0.
1-0 Iniesta (min 19)
2-0 Fábregas (min 39)
3-0 Alexis (min 70)
4-0 Pedro (min 89)
Barcelona continued their epic start to the season with another win last night against Betis. However, Leo Messi had to be replaced early on, after apparently suffering a knee injury and will undergo tests today (Monday) to discover the extent of his injury.
The early chances were created by the home side, with Victor Valdes forced to make two great saves early on in the first half, but as the Catalans settled in so came the chances. Cesc set up the opener for Neymar from Alex Song at 34 minutes, with Pedro putting Barça two goals up just a couple of minutes later.
Back on after the break Betis powered against the Barcelona goal only to hit the post, but quarter of an hour into the second half Cesc made it three; he also scored a fourth in the last quarter hour from a header. Betis’ only goal came in injury time, after Alves brought down Matilla in the penalty area, leaving the final score at 4-1 to FC Barcelona.
0-1 Neymar (min 34)
0-2 Pedro (min 36)
0-3 Fábregas (min 62)
0-4 Fábregas (min 78)
1-4 Jorge Molina (min 91)
After a week in which it was being asked in the Catalan and Spanish media if Messi had lost his touch after a lack of goals following his injury layoff, or whether Barça’s glory days were behind them under Tata Martino, the squad sent out a clear message in their match against Milan last night.
Barcelona dominated from the start, while Milan opted for highly defensive play making it difficult to get through. In the end Neymar was brought down in Milan’s area and a penalty awarded to the Catalans; Messi ended his goal drought by putting Barça ahead. Busquets also scored minutes after Messi’s first goal, while the Italians’ only goal came towards the end of the first half when Pique deflected Kaka’s shot into his own goal.
During the second half Milan looked to drop their focus on pure defence and started to look at attacking the Barcelona goal. However, with their defence now opened up Messi delivered his second goal 10 minutes from time assisted by Cesc to seal their victory and a place in the last 16.
1-0 Messi (min 29)
2-0 Busquets (min 38)
2-1 Piqué (min 44)
3-1 Messi (min 82)
The result means that Barcelona are now guaranteed to be through to the next round whatever now happens in the group stages, five points ahead of second place Milan. Not bad for a team that some said was in crisis.
With the All Saints holiday on Friday, the Barcelona derby against Espanyol was played on Friday night rather than Saturday or Sunday as would be more normal.
Barcelona dominated possession from the outset, but were unable to break the Espanyol defence. Espanyol enjoyed a few moments of counter attack and came close to scoring after a mixup with Dani Alves, but Valdes made the save. Immediately afterwards Alves came close to opening the scoring but struck the Espanyol woodwork and in the end the first half ended goalless.
Back on after the break Barça looked revitalised and soon looked like they would score, with a Messi header that looked certain to go in saved by the Espanyol keeper, Kiko Casilla, and Neymar had a go at the goal too. In the end Neymar assisted Alexis to the only goal of the match in the 66th minute and while both teams sought to score, the remainder of the match was goalless.
1-0 Alexis (min 66)
Following Saturday’s clasico there has been now let up for the Barça squad, with an away match scheduled for last night against Celta de Vigo. While a number of key players were rested ahead of the Barcelona derby on Friday and the next Champions League clash against Milan next Wednesday, the team got into their stride right from the start.
Once again Alexis showed that his class, putting the visitors into the lead after eight minutes. Celta, managed by one time Barça captain and Barça B coach, tried to apply pressure by moving their defence forward, but the Catalans controlled the match and the home team watched Barcelona’s attempts on the goal coming to nothing, but they must have known is was just a matter of time.
Back on after the break saw Barcelona extend the lead, when Cesc Fabregas hit the bar, for the ball to rebound into the net off the back of the Celta keeper. And a few minutes later Messi set Cesc up to score again, this time cleanly putting the ball into the net.
0-1 Alexis (min 8)
0-2 Yoel (min 47)
0-3 Fábregas (min 53)