Record-breaking Messi Leads the Way
Barcelona beat Málaga CF 4-1 in an entertaining match at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night. Despite winning two controversial penalties Barça sparkled in attack all evening, with Iniesta and Messi particularly impressive. The diminutive Argentine got a hat-trick to take his tally to a European record-breaking 46, boosting his claims for this season’s Pichichi Trophy, after Puyol scored the first from an Inesta cross. Málaga did create chances, and got their only goal from a header by Rondón.
It was a match with more riding on it than met the eye – Barcelona wanted to make Real Madrid work for their title, while Málaga maintained Champions League aspirations after a successful season on the back of a large investment by their Qatari owners.
The opening was slightly muted, but Barça were shaken on the 11th minute when a ferocious Duda free-kick flew past Pinto but rebounded off the right hand post. In the next passage of play Barça won a corner through a deflected effort by Cesc – it was taken short, and Messi released Iniesta with a clever reverse pass. Iniesta crossed it low and hard from the right, and Carles Puyol coolly turned it in to make it 1-0.
There followed a period of confident attacking play by the home team, but this spell of dominance was broken in the 26th minute when a cross from deep by Jesús Gámez was met with a powerful diving header by Rondón, which left Pinto with no chance as it zipped into the bottom left corner.
Once again, Barcelona responded quickly, and a jinking run by Iniesta was halted by a late Gámez tackle on the edge of the area. Whether it was a penalty was debatable, but referee Turienzo Álvarez pointed to the spot and Messi, anticipating Kameni’s early dive, nonchalantly rolled the penalty down the middle of the goal. Late in the half Cesc displayed excellent defensive instincts to block a shot by Duda after a mistimed punch by Pinto.
15 minutes into the second half Barcelona won another penalty – this time Duda was adjudged to have brought down Messi, but replays suggested the tackle might have been legitimate. Nevertheless Messi was efficient from the spot once again, smashing the ball into the top right corner.
Málaga then had a good chance fluffed by van Nistelrooy, on for Rondón, before Messi extended the home team’s lead with a fantastic goal. On the counter, Iniesta played a magnificent through-ball that breached two banks of Málaga defenders, finding Messi, who powered forward, flicked it over the advancing Kameni and passed it into the empty net.
From then on Barcelona were comfortable, as Málaga attempted to chase the game. Tello stretched the opposition defence after a couple of counter attacks, but the remainder of the match was played out in the home team’s half as Barcelona soaked up the opposition’s pressure, with Pinto only needing to make one save, from a late van Nistelrooy volley.
1-0 Puyol (min 13)
1-1 Salomón (min 25)
2-1 Messi (min 34)
3-1 Messi (min 57)
4-1 Messi (min 63)