After last week’s media circus centred on Neymar’s transfer figures and the shock resignation of FC Barcelona president Sandro Rosell as a result, the focus was back on football this weekend when Malaga travelled to the Nou Camp for round 21 of the Spanish League.
Barcelona narrowly beat Malaga 1-0 in the second round of the 2013-2014 season and with both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid comfortably winning their own matches prior to Barça’s kick off the players went on the pitch knowing that they would need to perform well.
The Catalans piled on the pressure from the outset and came close to scoring early on, but then so were Malaga, who made a few good attempts on the Barça goal. But finally it was Pique who broke the deadlock from a corner, just a few minutes before the halftime whistle to end the first half 1-0.
Back on after the break the visitors came close to equalising, but with the game back under control Barcelona starting working away at the Malaga goal. Time and time again the ball was stopped but it just looked like a matter of time and finally in the 54th minute Pedro scored Barça’s second off a Messi assist.
Six minutes later and Barcelona scored again, effectively shutting off any hope for Malaga. With the result in the bag the pace slowed down and off came Xavi, Pedro and Alexis and in their place came Tello, Sergi Roberto and Afellay. The latter has just recovered from knee and thigh injuries and back playing for Barça for the first time since 2012 after being loaned to Schalke.
This week sees Barça take on Levante again in the Copa del Rey, followed by Valencia next Saturday.
1-0 Piqué (min 39)
2-0 Pedro (min 54)
3-0 Alexis (min 60)
Last night Barcelona made their second visit to Valencia to play Levante in the space of a few days. On Sunday the result was disappointment, with a 1-1 draw leaving Barça tying on points with Atletico Madrid at the top of the Spanish League and just a single point ahead of Real Madrid, but although for a while last night’s Copa del Rey match seemed like it could go the same way a Tello hat trick ensured the Catalans left Valencia looking like they have done enough for the next round.
Early on it seemed like Levante were making all the breaks and the visitors were able to do very little at all. Despite some opportunities Barça failed to score and at the half hour mark El Zhar scored the opener for the home team. Barcelona failed to really rally after this and the first half ended with Levante a goal ahead and the match looking like it could go the same way as Sunday – or worse.
Back on after the break though Barça looked stronger and started to make many more chances, while Levante seemed to have wilted. Six minutes into the second half Messi passed to Tello who shot at the goal only to have it deflected – and Juanfran put it into his own net to equalise for Barça.
That was really the turning point and now Barcelona seemed to have more focus, more determination. Seven minutes later Messi set up Tello, who this time put it into the Levante net. And then twenty minutes later they repeated the act; and again just five minutes later to put Barça 4-1 ahead and almost certainly through to the next round.
1-0 El Zhar (min 30)
1-1 Juanfran (min 51)
1-2 Tello (min 58)
1-3 Tello (min 79)
1-4 Tello (min 84)
With Real Madrid closing in on Barcelona and Atletico Madrid on Saturday to put all three clubs on 50 points however briefly, it was essential to do as much as possible on Sunday. Barcelona played the earlier match against Levante, with the home side going ahead after 9 minutes and the equaliser scored by Pique at 18. Barcelona dominated possession in their normal inimitable style, but with Levante throwing as much as they could into defence the Catalans found it difficult to create any real opportunities. With only one other real chance other than Pique’s goal the first half ended disappointingly 1-1.
Back on after the break most of the play was concentrated in the Levante end. However, that didn’t mean that things went entirely Barça’s way as a) they still couln’t create any good opportunities, and b) Llevante came on strong when they had the chance and put Victor Valdes to the test on two occasions. As the minutes counted down it seemed like Barcelona would pull one of thos last minute goals out of the bag, but it just didn’t come, leaving a worryinging couple of hours before the Atletico result was known.
With Atletico Madrid drawing too, Barcelona is still at the top of the table. However, with Barça and Atletico on 51 and Real Madrid on 50 the second half of the season leaves the three clubs everything to play for.
1-0 Vyntra (min 9)
1-1 Piqué (min 18)
Barcelona made it through to the Copa del Rey quarter finals last night in Madrid after a 2-0 win against Getafe on top of their 4-0 victory in the first leg last week, a match that marked the 700th appearance for Barça by Xavi.
Both goals were scored by Messi, showing he is fully recovered from his injury and back on form, the first just before the break, with the second goal coming quarter of an hour into the second half.
With the Catalans through to the next round the only down side was Neymar hobbling off the pitch about 20 minutes into the match. While it was feared he hard torn a tendon in his knee, the good news is that he is suffering a sprained ankle and so should be playing again shortly.
0-1 Messi (min 43)
0-2 Messi (min 62)
Saturday night saw the two top teams in the Spanish league battling it out with the potential for a points gap at the end of 90 minutes. Barcelona travelled to Madrid to play Atletico, who they are just ahead of in the table thanks to their goal tally, making the halfway point of the season.
Both teams were clearly going out of their way to win the match but despite numerous chances neither team scored. Barcelona, with both Neymar and Messi sitting the first half out, were unable to control the pace of the match as they are so often able to do and Atletico were quick to counterattack when the occasion arose.
After the break Messi came on in place of Iniesta, but the hosts seemed more in control of the match than before, and with Neymar brought on 20 minutes into the second half the dynamic of the match changed, with chances for both teams. However, nothing came off, despite the players’ best efforts and the teams ended the weekend much the same as they started.
Two each from Cesc Fabregas and Leo Messi ensured that Barcelona look like a strong contender for the next Copa del Rey round in a 4-0 victory against Getafe last night.
Cesc opened the scoring just seven minutes in, but despite working hard at finding a way through the Getafe defence and increasing that lead, the visitors ensured the Catalans lead by a single goal going into the break. Quarter of an hour into the second half Cesc scored his second for the night following a penalty against Pedro.
When Messi started to warm up the crowd began to cheer him on, finally brought on for his first match since being laid off through injury in place of Iniesta. Right at the end of the match his moment came, when Busquets and Montoya set him up to score, while Alex Song set him up for a second goal in injury time.
1-0 Fábregas (min 7)
2-0 Fábregas (min 61)
3-0 Messi (min 87)
4-0 Messi (min 91)
Barcelona celebrated the eve of Three King’s with a 4-0 win against Elche in their first match of the New Year. The evening is marked across Spain with processions with children showered in sweets before going home to receive toys and other presents brought by the kings and as a special treat many youngsters were taken by parents and grandparents to watch the match.
The match saw the return of Victor Valdes in goal after several weeks being laid low by an injury sustained in the national squad and saw Barça quickly show the visitors that they meant business as usual after the Christmas break. Goals from Alexis and Pedro saw the Catalans two goals ahead at the quarter hour mark, which remained until the break.
Back on in the second half Barça failed to extend their advantage when Xavi missed a penalty, but Alexis soon made up for that with his second of the night, set up by Iniesta and Pedro. Minutes later Alexis scored his first hat trick for FC Barcelona when he scored from a free kick just outside the area.
1-0 Alexis (min 6)
2-0 Pedro (min 15)
3-0 Alexis (min 61)
4-0 Alexis (min 67)
Barcelona’s last match of 2013 took place yesterday afternoon in Madrid, where they had travelled to play Getafe. However, with the home team scoring twice within the first quarter hour it looked for a while as if they might drop points ahead of Atletico Madrid’s evening match against Levante.
However, as the Catalans carried on working away Pedro scored one for Barcelona, then equalised and finally put Barça a goal ahead in time for the break; that was all in nine minutes. Barcelona were still playing without Messi and Valdes through injury, and Neymar was absent through suspension, but with these key players missing the remaining squad were determined to go into the holiday break heading the table still.
After the break Barcelona were clearly in control and although Getafe had a good chance at equalising 15 minutes in, Cesc effectively sealed the result when he scored from a Pedro cross. And when Pedro was brought down inside the area Cesc scored his second of the night to end the match 5-2 and with the almost certain knowledge that they would remain at the top of the table over Christmas.
1-0 Sergio Escudero (min 9)
2-0 Lisandro López (min 14)
2-1 Pedro (min 33)
2-2 Pedro (min 40)
2-3 Pedro (min 42)
2-4 Fábregas (min 67)
2-5 Fábregas (min 71)
Barcelona are through to the next round of the Copa del Rey after beating Cartagena 7-1 on aggregate. Last night’s goals came from Pedro, an own goal from Mariano and from Neymar to end the match on 3-0.
Cartagena played to defend, and with their full squad aiming to stop the Catalans from scoring it proved difficult to find space. However, Pedro finally got the ball home after 30 minutes to put Barcelona into the lead, a result that stood until the break.
The second half also started slowly, but 20 minutes the ball was deflected into the visitors’ goal from a Tello cross. With the result now pretty much settled Martino made a number of changes and in the final minutes a Jordi Alba assist helped Neymar score the third for the night.
Barça will play Getafe in the next round, the first lleg of which takes place on 8th January and the return leg the following week.
1-0 Pedro (min 30)
2-0 Mariano (min 67)
3-0 Neymar (min 87)