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Camp Nou Says ‘Thanks’ to Pep

May 7th, 2012

The Camp Nou said a fond farewell to Pep Guardiola on Saturday night after Barcelona defeated Espanyol 4-0, with Lionel Messi grabbing all four goals. The Argentine got two from the penalty spot, one from a free-kick and another after latching onto a long pass.

Before Barcelona’s final home game of the season, the Camp Nou took the opportunity to thank Pep Guardiola for four seasons of unrivalled success, unfurling a giant banner with “We Love You, Pep” in Catalan. The visit of Espanyol offered an opportunity to bring his tenure as coach to a close with a win against one of the club’s two biggest rivals.

The first half was largely a quiet affair, though Barcelona were in near constant control. After a tentative opening, Messi jolted the game to life in the 11th minute when he curled a 25-yard free-kick past Cristian Alvarez to score his 47th goal in the league this season.

For much of the rest of the half Barça dominated possession, but Espanyol were resolute in defence and kept clear opportunities to a minimum.

Barcelona were equally watertight at the back, but going forward found their best chances coming from direct free-kicks. Iniesta forced Cristian Álvarez to make an excellent low diving save to keep out a free-kick destined for the bottom-right corner, and on the stroke of half-time another fine effort by Messi from the left hit the side-netting past the left post of the goal.

The home team’s superiority continued into the second half, and Barça began to get closer to the Espanyol goal, with Iniesta seeing two shots go narrowly wide – once after being put through by Pedro and later when a close range effort was deflected past the near post by an Espanyol defender after good interplay with Adriano.

Then in the 63rd minute Messi won a penalty. In a relatively debatable decision, Barça’s number 10 flicked the ball up and it caught the elbow of Cristian Gómez as he attempted to block. Messi scored his 48th of the season as he waited for the ‘keeper to move before sending the ball home off the right hand post.

Over the next ten minutes Espanyol enjoyed their best spell of the game when Forlín drove a volley at goal that Pinto pushed just wide of his right post, and later Mascherano produced a fantastic goal-line clearance after Weiss had got the better of Pinto.

But immediately after, Messi chested a long diagonal pass down, outpaced Víctor Sánchez and found the bottom right corner with a cool finish. The celebrations had barely finished when Busquets was felled in the penalty area by Forlín. Once again Messi stepped up to take the spot-kick and smashed the ball into the net to claim his 50th league goal of the season. The entire team then ran across to Pep Guardiola to celebrate together. And at full-time Guardiola took to the centre-circle to say goodbye to the fans amid emotional scenes.

1-0 Messi (min 11)
2-0 Messi (min 62)
3-0 Messi (min 72)
4-0 Messi (min 77)


La liga 2011/2012 – standing after week 36(2)

May 3rd, 2012

While Barcelona convincingly beat Malaga last night, Real Madrid took the league title after beating Athletic Bilbao 3-1. However, not all is lost as Lionel Messi leads the goal tally in the league, two ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo who has scored 44 this season.

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Record-breaking Messi Leads the Way

May 3rd, 2012

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)


La liga 2011/2012 – standing after week 36

April 30th, 2012

With the pressure of Barcelona scored an impressive 7-0 win against Rayo, depriving Real Madrid of the pleasure of taking the title this weekend.

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Joy Returns in Rayo Rout

April 30th, 2012

In one of the final matches of Guardiola’s tenure, FC Barcelona rediscovered their attacking verve, defeating lowly Rayo Vallecano 7-0 in Madrid on Sunday night. Messi grabbed two and he was joined on the score-sheet by Keita, Pedro (2) and Thiago, while Rayo left-back Rober scored an own-goal trying to clear a shot by Alexis.

Guardiola took the opportunity to rest a handful of players who have looked a little tired over the last few weeks. Pinto was in for Víctor Valdés, while Xavi, Cesc, Dani Alves and Iniesta all started on the bench. After a traumatic week it took a while for Barcelona to find their feet against a side battling against relegation.

But sure enough, Barcelona’s game regained its familiar fluidity, and they got a goal with their first shot on target – an incisive passing move saw Alexis find Pedro free on the right side of the area, and his low cross was perfectly weighted for Messi to finish at the back post.

Barcelona were dominating though, and doubled their lead when Keita threaded a delightful pass through for Alexis. The Chilean forward dribbled round the onrushing Cobeño and tried to turn it into the goal from a tight angle on the left. His shot was heading wide, but as left-back Rober slid in to block he succeeded only in turning the ball into the goal, and managed to injure himself as he collided with the post.

The third followed shortly before half-time, and was crafted by Messi, who cut in from the right, beat three defenders and played it through for Keita who tucked it beneath the ‘keeper.

The second half was barely underway before Barça added to their tally – Alexis bustled down the left before picking out Messi all alone in the area. The Argentine’s close-range shot hit the cross bar, but Pedro was free to follow up and make it 4-0.

Much of the remainder of the second half was subdued, with Barcelona waiting for opportunities rather than take the attacking initiative. Rayo had their moments, particularly through the ever-lively Lass Bangoura, who embarked on one run from the left that beat two Barça defenders before his powerful shot drew another reaction save from Pinto.

Later there was time for Ibrahim Afellay to make a long awaited comeback from injury as he took the place of Sergio Busquets with 20 minutes to go. Soon after, Thiago made it five, when he arrived late to nod Alves’ cross down and in off the post from 16 yards. With the minutes ticking down, Messi flicked a looping pass into the inside-left channel for Pedro, who brought it under control and drove it below Cobeño for his second of the night.

Immediately after Messi added a seventh as Rayo completely fell apart in defence. Pedro got loose in the area, and cut the ball back for Messi, who coolly passed it into the bottom corner to seal an overwhelming victory for Barça.


Heartbreak for Barcelona

April 25th, 2012

Barcelona are out of the UEFA Champions League after drawing 2-2 with 10-man Chelsea at the Camp Nou. In an eventful match Barça were unable to capitalise on their dominance– they went 2-0 up through goals by Busquets and Iniesta, but were pegged back on the stroke of half time by a goal from Ramires. In the second half Barcelona attacked relentlessly, but couldn’t score the crucial third, and collapsed at the end to a breakaway Torres goal.

The first half was as dramatic as any at the Camp Nou this season. It started with Barcelona exerting near constant pressure on the Chelsea defence. And the first chance arrived within three minutes, when quick interplay between Messi and Sánchez saw Messi through against Cech, but the Argentine slammed his right-footed effort into the side-netting.

Soon after, Valdés had to clear a long-ball by Petr Cech, but in doing so crashed into Piqué, knocking him out cold. The centre-half would go on to play ten more minutes before getting withdrawn.

At the other end Messi drew a smart close range stop from Cech and Cesc volleyed wide after a clever ball over the top by Cuenca. But the pressure was starting to tell now, and just after the thirty-minute mark Barcelona took the lead. Alves, on for Piqué, released Cuenca on the right, who crossed low for Busquets to arrive late and slot home.

The remainder of the half was full of incident – first John Terry inexplicably kicked Alexis off the ball, earning a red card. Then with Chelsea caught high up the pitch and trying to recover, Alexis laid the ball off for Messi, who threaded it through down the left for Iniesta, who in turn made no mistake with an elegant side-footed finish into the bottom right corner.

But then, as half time beckoned, Chelsea scored a goal from nowhere. Lampard spotted Ramires’ run, and the Brazilian produced a deft chip which looped over Valdés and down into the net. The goal put Chelsea back in the lead in the tie on away goals.

In the second half Chelsea defended in a 6-3 formation and Barcelona toiled to find gaps, but few were forthcoming.

On one of the rare occasions that Barcelona managed to draw Chelsea players out of position, Cesc flicked the ball away from Drogba on the right side of the area, earning a penalty from the forward’s lunge. Messi stepped up but drove his spot-kick onto the cross bar and out.

After the penalty Barcelona appeared to be discouraged, and found it increasingly difficult to carve open the massed Chelsea ranks – Messi cut in from the right and hit the bottom of the post from outside the area, and Cuenca forced a stop from Cech. Any hopes of qualifying were wiped out by Torres’ goal when Barça had committed the whole team forward. A long kick downfield left the Spanish forward one-on-one with Valdes, and he rounded the ‘keeper before passing it in.

1-0 Busquets (min 34)
2-0 Iniesta (min 43)
2-1 Ramires (min 45)
2-2 Fernando (min 92)


La liga 2011/2012 – standing after week 35

April 23rd, 2012

Barcelona’s defeat at the hands of Madrid on Saturday night effectively ended any hope of overtaking their arch-rival in the Spanish League this season.

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Real Madrid Take Points and Title

April 23rd, 2012

Barcelona effectively conceded the title on Saturday evening, losing 1-2 to Real Madrid at the Camp Nou. Real Madrid took the lead through Khedira after a slip by Valdés. From there Barcelona fought gamely and eventually equalised via Alexis in the 70th minute. But immediately after the goal Real Madrid regained the lead through Cristiano Ronaldo.

The first half got off to a frantic pace, with Real Madrid once again pressing Barcelona high up the pitch, but quickly getting back into position when Barça had the ball. It was the away team that settled earlier – in the first five minutes Cristiano Ronaldo nodded a header down onto the top Puyol’s head, and looked destined for the top-right corner before Valdés tipped it over the bar acrobatically.

Alves almost got a shot away after he intercepted a pass between two Madrid defenders, but Casillas was quick to come out and block him off. Cristian Tello was lively on Barcelona’s left flank throughout the half, and had Barcelona’s first telling effort when cut inside a defender but saw his shot across the goal well saved by Casillas

But as Barcelona appeared to be finding their feet, Real Madrid scored from a corner – Di Maria swung the ball in deep from the left, Pepe got up at the back post and headed it across the six yard box. Valdes spilled the ball and Puyol attempted to cover, but was outmuscled by Khedira who scooped the ball into the net.

After the goal Real Madrid retreated into their half and put the onus on Barcelona to try and break them down. Ten minutes after the opener Xavi had a golden opportunity to make it 1-1. Messi slipped a sublime reverse pass through, and Xavi had plenty of time one-on-one, but saw his shot narrowly roll past the left post after a small deflection off Casillas.

The second half saw Barcelona completely dominate territory and possession, as Real Madrid held their shape and attempted to buy time at every opportunity. Chances were limited for either side, and after 25 minutes the closest Barça had come was via a Xavi shot that zipped just past the left post.

Soon after though, Barcelona were on level terms. Stylish build-up play from Messi and Iniesta brought the ball to Tello’s feet. His shot was well saved by Casillas, but Busquets sent the ball back towards the goal, and Alexis was on hand to force the ball home after a goal-line scramble.

At this stage it seemed likely that Barcelona would take the upper hand, but directly after the goal Real Madrid had regained the upper hand. This time Özil received the ball on the right touchline, and sent a smart, angled pass in behind for Cristiano, who took it on, rounded Valdes to the right and tucked his shot home.

Stifled by Madrid’s dogged defending, Barcelona were unable to rouse themselves and were unable to muster another chance before full-time.

0-1 Khedira (min 16)
1-1 Alexis (min 69)
1-2 Cristiano (min 72)


Advantage Chelsea After Frustrating Night

April 19th, 2012

Barcelona will have to overcome a one-goal deficit to proceed to the Champions League Final, after losing the first leg 1-0 to Chelsea. Barça completely dominated the first half, but fluffed a number of openings and were hit by a sucker punch from Didier Drogba just before the break. The second half was more subdued, but Barcelona managed to create a couple of chances, most notably in the very last minute when Busquets failed to put away a straightforward rebound from seven yards.

Chelsea ceded possession and got men behind the ball. Most of the match was played out in their territory, as they waited for counter attacks, set pieces and long-balls up to Drogba to put Barça under pressure.

Still, Barcelona were dangerous, and almost scored from their first chance. Iniesta lofted a pinpoint pass through for Alexis in an inside-left position. The Chilean forward then lobbed it over Cesc, but, agonisingly, the ball bounced back off the crossbar.

Minutes later Cesc should have made it 1-0 to Barcelona. Iniesta fizzed a low shot towards Cech’s bottom-left corner, and when the ball rebounded to Fábregas the midfielder miscued his shot from six yards with the goal gaping.

Despite efforts by the home team to disrupt the flow the match the chances continued to flow for Barcelona. Cesc turned inside Cahill on the left side of the area, but his shot was beaten away by Cech.

Cesc had another opportunity to open the scoring just before half-time, when Messi bustled forward and slipped a smart ball behind the defence for him. This time Cesc chipped it over the ‘keeper, but Ashley Cole intervened on the line at the last second.

Chelsea had posed some threat from long throws, but didn’t get a clear sight of Barça’s goal until the stroke of halftime when Lampard spotted Ramires breaking down the left. The Brazilian had plenty of space in front of him and worked his way to the edge of the area before squaring for Drogba who swept it home to give Chelsea an unlikely lead.

In the second half Barcelona found their play increasingly stifled, and started to lose momentum. Chelsea were even less enterprising than in the first half and spent the remainder camped in front of their box.

Although chances were more limited, Barça did get a few glimpses of goal. Adriano drove in from the left and curled a long-range shot that Cech had to push away. A few minutes after, Alexis was released by a delicate Cesc pass, but sent his shot wide under pressure from Ashley Cole.

From there Barcelona toiled against the resilient Chelsea defence, and space was hard to find. The match seemed to be limping to the final whistle when Messi and Sergio combined, and the ball fell to Pedro. His shot rebounded off the post and into Sergio’s path, but the midfielder was off balance and couldn’t make the right connection.


La liga 2011/2012 – standing after week 34

April 16th, 2012

Barcelona remain four points behind Madrid after a 2-1 win against Levante, now in the number five spot in the league, while Madrid played Sporting Gijon, a rather easier game given that the team are in the relegation zone. This week Barcelona faces Chelsea in the first leg of the Chapions League semi-final and next Saturday is the clasico, which could put the Catalans within a pòint of the league leaders.

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