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Ruthless Barcelona Roll on in the Cup

January 26th, 2012

FC Barcelona overcame Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey quarterfinal, drawing 2-2 on the night and winning 4-3 on aggregate. Pedro and Alves got the goals for the home team.

Barcelona began the match under a storm of pressure from the visitors. It started as early as the 10th second, when Higuaín intercepted Alves’ pass for Piqué, but the striker contrived to miss from 10 yards with Pinto stranded and the goal gaping. Seconds later Pinto needed to make a point-blank save to keep Higuaín out after he met a free-kick at the back post.

The home team was struggling to keep possession against a highly motivated and aggressive side. Cristiano Ronaldo was seeing plenty of the ball, slamming one effort wide of the near-post and seeing another saved by the legs of Pinto.

After 15 minutes Barcelona mounted their first attack of note – Cesc got away from Xabi Alonso down the left and squared for Messi, whose shot flashed wide of the left post from just outside the area.

Real Madrid were soon back on the front foot though. Mesut Özil crashed a 30-yard strike that flew over Pinto’s head, off the underside of the bar and out just in front of the goal line. Then, on the half hour mark, sloppy distribution by Pinto saw the ball land at Higuaín’s feet on the right side of the area, but Barça’s ‘keeper was equal to the task once more and preserved the home team’s aggregate lead.

After half an hour the Madrid assault was starting to tail off, and Barcelona began to pass the ball with confidence once more. Just before the break Messi embarked on a trademark run inside, clipping the ball delicately for Pedro on the edge of the area. The winger, on for the injured Iniesta, showed great composure to slot the ball into the bottom-left corner.

Dani Alves then seemingly put the tie to bed – a Barça free-kick was cleared to the right angle of the area and the Brazilian full-back let rip with a first-time shot that zipped into the top right corner, leaving Casillas with no chance in the world.

The first 20 minutes of the second half were largely unremarkable – Real Madrid looked like they’d pulled a goal back, but replays showed a tug by Sergio Ramos on Alves’ arm. The match appeared to be petering out before Özil strode forward and threaded a neat pass for Cristiano Ronaldo, who rounded Pinto and scored from a tight angle.

The game got a little more serious just three minutes later. Benzema collected a header by Callejón, flicked the ball over Puyol and tucked it home to take the score on the night to 2-2, 4-3 on aggregate. From there on Real Madrid blustered, but were unable to make an impact, and as the final minutes counted down Ramos was sent off for a second yellow after a challenge on Busquets.

1-0 Pedro (min 43)
2-0 Alves (min 48)
2-1 Cristiano Ronaldo (min 70)
2-2 Benzema (min 74)


La Liga 2011/2012 – standing after week 20

January 23rd, 2012

Barcelona remain five points behind Real Madrid in the Spanish League, with both teams winning their respective matches 4-1. Reports in the Spanish press suggest that Jose Mourinho has been dealing with a player “revolt” after rowing with Sergio Ramos and captain Iker Casillas, and he was booed by fans at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on Sunday night. On Wednesday the visit the Nou Camp for the second leg of the Copa del Rey quarter final, with Barça the stronmg favourites to go through.

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Fantastic Hat-Trick for Messi the Magician

January 23rd, 2012

Messi grabbed three goals to help Barcelona to an impressive 4-1 victory at La Rosaleda against Málaga on Sunday evening. Guardiola’s men put in a smart and efficient display against a potentially dangerous opponent, scoring two goals early in the second half, through Alexis and Messi to effectively close the game 45 minutes early.

Guardiola opted to rest Puyol, Xavi and Cesc, giving a rare start to Adriano, while Thiago joined Busquets and Iniesta in midfield, and Mascherano partnered Piqué in central defence. Pellegrini’s Málaga side offered a mix of youth and international experience, with three veteran stars in Mathijsen, Demichelis and van Nistelrooy, and two creative talents in Cazorla and Isco.

The early exchanges were relatively even, with Thiago coming close with a diving header Messi shooting just wide from the edge of the area. Málaga also posed a threat, not least through young midfielder Isco. His powerful curled effort was bound for the top right corner, but Valdés managed to flick it over on the stretch. From the ensuing corner Valdés had to be sharp to first stop a header by Isco, then block the youngsters follow up attempt.

Despite these chances, Barça were dominating the ball and creating openings with some comfort. Piqué had got on the end of a free-kick, but was off balance and sent it well wide. Málaga replied with a half chance for van Nistelrooy but the striker misconnected and sent it over.

Then, on the half-hour mark, Iniesta bustled forward and laid the ball off for Adriano, whose swirling cross found Messi on the penalty spot. The Argentine rose well and directed a powerful header into the bottom corner, giving Caballero no chance and Barcelona the lead.

Barcelona came out all guns blazing for the second half, and within just two minutes they had extended their lead. Alexis dispatched a low Adriano cross, scoring from close range after Thiago had already forced a save by Caballero. And only seconds had passed before Barça were 3-0 up.

This time it was all about Messi, who collected the ball from Thiago and weaved his way through the Málaga defence, before cooling slotting the ball into the bottom left corner.

With the match wrapped up, Barcelona could afford to take it easy, and some key performers were withdrawn – Dos Santos, Cuenca and Pedro came on for Adriano, Busquets and Alexis, and the game seemed to be petering out.

Messi though was hungry for more goals. He saw a fabulous free-kick cannon off the underside of cross bar and out for a corner via Caballero, but soon had the ball in the net. With ten minutes to go he embarked on a run from his own half, evading Demichelis and Mathijsen and finishing with typical ease to cap a truly memorable performances. In the dying stages Málaga started to press forward, and Rondón was on hand to grab a late consolation, pouncing on a rebound from Valdés.

0-1 Messi (min 32)
0-1 Alexis (min 46)
0-1 Messi (min 49)
0-1 Messi (min 80)
1-1 Salomón (min 84)


Abidal Grabs Rare Goal in Brave Victory

January 19th, 2012

FC Barcelona deservedly gained the upper hand in the Copa del Rey quarter-final, defeating a rugged Real Madrid 1-2 at the Santiago Bernabéu. After going behind to an early Cristiano Ronaldo goal, Barça stormed back with strikes from Puyol and Abidal.

The early exchanges were frantic, with neither side able to keep possession for more than two or three passes. This was playing into Madrid’s hands, who were seeking to break quickly and directly at every opportunity, given their three pacy forwards and absence of an attacking midfielder. It was from such a counter-attack that they took the lead after just 11 minutes.

Cristiano Ronaldo exploited the space behind Dani Alves, latching onto a Benzema pass, powering into the Barça area and wrong-footing Piqué before dispatching a low strike between Pinto’s legs to put Madrid ahead.

Really, it was to be their last attack of note before the break, and for the rest of the first half the onus was on Barcelona to find a way back. Iniesta began to shine, testing Casillas at the near-post from the edge of the area, later getting onto an Alexis layoff but skewing his effort just wide on the left side of goal.

In between Cesc did well to spot Alexis dropping behind Ramos and Coentrão, and curled a pass that Alexis, backpedalling, could only head onto the bar with Casillas completely stranded. Busquets then set up Messi down the inside-left Channel, but Real’s ‘keeper was alert and made another low near-post save.

But as the half wore on Madrid began to enjoy some success by closing down quickly in midfield and occasionally disrupting the game’s flow with niggling fouls. Just before the half-time whistle, first Alexis then Messi looked clean through in potential one-on-one situations but were incorrectly flagged offside.

Barcelona began the second half with renewed vigour, and were rewarded almost immediately. Xavi swung a corner in from the left side and Puyol stooped to head home unmarked from six yards. It was the ideal start, and Iniesta was so close to making it two when Cesc lifted a stylish pass over the top for him to volley, but Ramos’ intervention saw the ball cannon off the outside of the post.

Madrid’s response nearly saw them regain the lead – Altintop beat Iniesta down the right with some skill and sent a deep cross the Benzema headed onto the post from an acute angle. This let-off aside, Barcelona were gaining the upper hand, and Los Blancos’ apparent solution was to kick anything that moved. Pepe was looking out of control – replays caught him stamping on Messi’s hand, but Carvalho, Ramos and Alonso were equally guilty of trying to intimidate their opponents.

At this stage only Barça looked capable of snatching another, and the did just this when Messi showed great vision to spot Abidal, flicking a perfect pass to the left-back, who controlled it on his chest and angled it past Casillas from close range.

1-0 Cristiano (min 10)
1-1 Puyol (min 48)
1-2 Abidal (min 76)


La Liga 2011/2012 – standing after week 19

January 16th, 2012

Real Madrid remain five points ahead of Barça following the weekend’s fixtures, with Madrid beating Mallorca 2-1 on Saturday and Barcelona winning 4-2 against Betis.

Next stop for both teams is the clasico on Wednesday, when Barça visits the Bernabeu in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarter finals.

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Alexis on form in Tough Win

January 16th, 2012

Barcelona struggled at times, but achieved a 4-2 victory a lively Real Betis team at the Camp Nou. After taking a two-goal lead through Xavi and Messi Barça were pegged back before Alexis and Messi got the winners.

Barcelona were caught cold in the first few minutes of the game. Real Betis attacked with verve, and might have taken an early lead when Rubén Castro set Jorge Molina through one-on-one, but Valdés was alert to the danger and snuffled out the chance. He had to be on his toes from the ensuing corner, clawing a flicked header by Dorado out at the near post.

Barcelona then took over, and scored their first goal with just ten minutes gone. The improving Alexis slipped a smart pass between two defenders for Cesc. His left-footed effort hit the post, but Xavi was first to react to the rebound. It was only a matter of seconds before they made it 2-0. Betis continued to throw bodies forward and when Barcelona won possession they had little trouble cutting through Los Béticos’ ranks. For the second Iniesta picked up the ball from deep and burst forward. He chose to release Alexis, whose low cross found Messi free in the centre to score from close range.

Barça then had a comfortable spell, combining neatly, with only last-ditch efforts from the Betis defenders keeping the score down. But despite being two-down, Betis remained smart on the break – they offered a reminder of their attacking threat when Jefferson Montero cut back for Rubén Castro, who misconnected with the ball and watched it fly over the bar.

And they clawed a goal back on the half hour mark – Molina rounded Valdés and laid it on for Sevilla, who spotted striker Castro at the far post, giving him a simple finish to make from six yards. Now looking more confident, the away side was suddenly a real a match for Guardiola’s men, who were struggling to find their customary fluency.

Betis ramped up the pressure at the start of the second half, winning a dangerous free-kick and pegging Barcelona back. The home side was on its heels and conceded the lead on 52 minutes. Rubén Castro broke free on the counter down the left wing – his pass infield found substitute Roque Santa Cruz, who powered a strike inside the right post from the edge of the area.

Barcelona then went on the attack – they should have had a penalty when Iniesta was fouled by Montero, but Villanueva somehow saw fit to book Barcelona’s number 8 for a dive. When Betis had Mario sent off for a second yellow things started to look a little easier, and, after a couple of half-chances, Barcelona regained the lead when Xavi clipped a pass over the top for Alexis, whose shot evaded Casto at the near post. With the clock running down, Barcelona won a penalty for a Dorado hand-ball, and Messi made no mistake from the spot.

1-0 Xavi (min 9)
2-0 Messi (min 11)
2-1 Rubén Castro (min 31)
2-2 Santa Cruz (min 50)
3-2 Alexis (Min 73)
4-2 Messi (min 84)


Barça eliminates Osasuna to go through to Copa del Rey quarter-final

January 13th, 2012

After last week’s 4-0 win against Osasuna in the Nou Camp there wasn’t much left to do for Barça to make it through to the next round.  There was some doubt during the day whether the match would take place due to the weather, but in the end it went ahead as planned in freezing fog.

The Barça squad looked as though they weren’t going to over exert themselves in the cold, however after 15 minutes Fontas was stretched off the pitch, with Abidal coming on in his place. After some undemanding play, Osasuna finally came alive at the end of the first half and Lekic put the ball past Pinto to put the hosts ahead.

After the break Barça quickly got into the game to make sure Osasuna’s advantage was temporary. The Catalan’s moment came just four minutes into the second half when Adriano crossed to Alexis, who put the ball into the Osasuna net. Guardiola then brought on Messi in place of Alexis and soon after Busquets came on to replace Pedro, who was suffering a thigh strain.

A few minutes later Messi set up Sergi Roberto’s goal inside the area in the 72nd minute to put Barcelona ahead; the scoreline remained 2-1 to Barcelona, who once again have qualified for the Copa del Rey quarter-final. Next week they face Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, with Barcelona v Real Madrid at the Nou Camp leg being played a week later.

1-0 Lekic (min 40)
1-1 Alexis (min 49)
1-2 Sergi Roberto (min 72)


Buy Barcelona football tickets for another clasico!

January 13th, 2012

Following Real Madrid’s qualification for the Copa del Rey quarter finals later this month and FC Barcelona going through after defeating Osasuna, football fans can look forward to two clasicos both next week and the week that follows.

On 17/18/19 January Real Madrid play at home, with the Nou Camp leg a week later on 24/25/26. These dates will be confirmed shortly and if you’d like to order now you can do so to ensure you don’t miss out on what will be another exciting encounter between the two sides.

Last season the Copa del Rey was Real Madrid’s only title and so Jose Mourinho’s boys will be looking to at least make it through to the next round and defeat their Catalan arch-rival even if they don’t win the title.

Click the following links to order now: Real Madrid v FC Barcelona or FC Barcelona v Real Madrid


Messi wins Player of the Year for third year in succession

January 10th, 2012

Here at Simply Barcelona Tickets we’d like to extend our congratulations to Lionel Messi and Pep Guardiola for being recognised by FIFA as the best player and best coach in the world right now.

Last night at an award ceremony is Zurich Leo Messi was awarded the FIFA Ballon d’Or, in its second year of existence after the FIFA Player of the Year and France Football Magazine’s Ballon d’Or were merged. In its previous incarnation only Michel Platini had been awarded the Ballon d’Or three years straight, and he is joining Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo who were both three time winners of the old FIFA award.

Messi received 48% of votes, with Cristiano Ronaldo on 22% and teammate Xavi on 9%. Upon receiving the award the Argentine player thanked “my teammates, trainers, physios, the coach and everyone at Barcelona” before adding “I want to share this honour with my teammate, Xavi… He deserves it, too. I want to share it with you, because you deserve it as much as me. It’s a pleasure to be here alongside him and to play with him.”

In addition to Messi, Barça coach Pep Guardiola won the Coach of the Year award ahead of Sir Alex Ferguson and Madrid’s motormouth Jose Mourinho. Ferguson, who received FIFA’s Presidential Award for his success over three decades as manager said “Messi could play in any generation… The Barcelona team right now, with Lionel in their side, are an extraordinary side.”


La Liga 2011/2012 – standing after week 18

January 9th, 2012

Real Madrid are again five points ahead of FC Barcelona after they beat Granada 5-1, while Barcelona drew against local rivals Espanyol on Sunday.

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