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Barcelona Battle to Win at Levante

April 16th, 2012

FC Barcelona had to come from behind to beat Levante 2-1 at the Ciutat de Valencia on Saturday night. After conceding to a Barkero penalty, Barça hit back with two goals by Messi.

Guardiola stuck with the same system that defeated Getafe three days earlier, featuring a three-man defence of Puyol, Mascherano and Adriano. A major absentee from the first team midfield was Andrés Iniesta, who took his place on the bench at kick-off.

Barcelona got off to a strong start, and went about creating a series of chances in the opening minutes. The first fell to Pedro, after Messi found the winger in plenty of space on the left side of the area. Pedro’s shot was straight at Munua, and the Levante ‘keeper managed to parry away one-handed.

Later Messi showed great strength to bring the ball down in the area after the Levante defence attempted to clear its lines. He held off two defenders and made space for a shot that went just over the bar.

Thiago then had two excellent chances to open the scoring for Barcelona, with two headers. The first went just wide after Alexis tricked his way to the byline and pulled a cross back. The second came from a Messi free kick – Thiago beat the offside trap but could only head straight at Munua, despite being in plenty of space.

Then, after 22 minutes, and with Levante’s first real attack, Barcelona conceded a penalty. Valdés was unable to gather a corner, and Busquets was adjudged to have handled the ball when he attempted to win possession back. Barkero was cool from the penalty spot, waiting for Valdés to dive to the right before firing it down the middle.

Barça were quieter after conceding – Levante got men behind the ball much faster, and space was hard to find. The best chance was crafted by Messi, who looped a delightful pass for Cesc, but Munua dealt with the midfielder’s header.

With only a win good enough to maintain the pressure on Real Madrid, Barcelona attacked with real ferocity right from the start of the second half. Cuenca replaced Xavi, and Iniesta soon came on for Pedro. It took some time for the chances to start flowing though.

Adriano forced an acrobatic save from Munua with a shot just outside the area. And straight after, Messi drew Barcelona level. He ran with the ball from deep and played a one-two with Alexis on the edge of the area. Messi strode onto the return pass and curled the ball inside the left post.

Ten minutes later Cuenca dribbled past Juanfran on the right edge of the area, but as he got away the left-back pushed him to the ground, conceding a penalty for his side. Messi stepped up and stroked the ball into the top-right corner, sending Munua the wrong way.

From there Barcelona were professional, keeping possession in the Levante half and closing out an important and hard-fought win.

1-0 Barkero (min 22)
1-1 Messi (min 64)
1-2 Messi (min 72)

La liga 2011/2012 – standing after week 33

April 12th, 2012

Barcelona remain four points behind Real Madrid after their archrival beat Atletico Madrid in their match last night.

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Alexis on Form as Barcelona Breeze Past Getafe

April 10th, 2012

Barcelona got revenge for their away defeat earlier in the season by thrashing Getafe 4-0 at the Camp Nou on Tuesday evening. Alexis Sánchez got two goals, with Messi and Pedro grabbing one apiece. It was a thoroughly professional and composed performance, and a result that ramps up the pressure on Real Madrid, just one point ahead before their match on Wednesday.

Guardiola fielded what looked a very attacking lineup – ostensibly it was a four-man defence, with Mascherano and Busquets in the middle, but the latter floated between midfield and defence. Puyol and Adriano were on the flanks, tucking in occasionally.

Barcelona settled quickly and attacked relentlessly in the first half, getting the opener after 12 minutes – from the left touchline, Iniesta looped a pass infield for Messi. The Argentine chested into the path of Alexis who strode forward and curled his shot past Moyá and inside the right post.

Barça maintained the intensity after the goal, and were denied what should have been a second by a strange refereeing decision. After a spell of prolonged possession Messi slipped a pass through for Xavi, who turned in the area and lifted his shot over Moyá. A goal seemed unavoidable as the ball bounced over the line, but it was hooked away by a Getafe defender and off Messi for a goal kick. Replays suggested the goal should have stood.

Getafe were deep, narrow, and struggling to cope with Barcelona’s pressing and movement. With half an hour gone, Busquets lofted a pinpoint pass through for Messi, but the forward’s shot dribbled agonisingly wide of the right post.

The away team did muster an attack of their own; as Barcelona cleared a corner, Rubén Pérez struck a sweet volley from outside the area which deflected just wide of the goal with Valdés motionless.

In response Barcelona should have extended their lead – Cuenca fired a low cross from the right wing that picked out Alexis in plenty of space at the back post, but the Chilean forward could only poke wide. The second goal came before half time, after a breathtaking passing move. Messi fired a pass through Iniesta, who produced a delightful back-heeled layoff for the overlapping Argentine with his first touch. Messi picked it up and fired the ball into the top left corner.

Barça were less urgent in the second half, electing instead to build slowly and retain possession. It was almost half an hour before Moyá was tested – he palmed away a wayward Cuenca cross. But the next time Cuenca got down the right flank he curled a cross that Alexis headed home. And two minutes later Barcelona scored with another header. This time Messi swung a free kick in from the right hand side, and Pedro glanced a deft header into the top left corner.

Later Messi danced past three defenders from left corner flag, but his shot was deflected onto the bar by the ‘keeper.

1-0 Alexis (min 13)
2-0 Messi (min 44)
3-0 Alexis (min 73)
4-0 Pedro (min 75)

La liga 2011/2012 – standing after week 32

April 8th, 2012

Barcelona closed the gap with Madrid to four points after they beat Zaragoza 4-1 and Valencia held Madrid to a goalless draw at the Bernabeu.

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Barcelona Battle Past Zaragoza

April 8th, 2012

With the 2011/2012 in its closing few weeks we still have tickets available for two matches. On April 24th Barcelona faces Chelsea in the Champions League semi-finals, while in early May we have FC Barcelona tickets available for the league match against Malaga. That match will be played midweek, and the date is not yet fixed so could be on any day between 1st and 3rd May.

FC Barcelona earned a hard fought 4-1 win away at Real Zaragoza on Saturday night. In a competitive match Valdés saved a penalty before conceding to an Aranda header. Barça bounced back minutes later through goals from Puyol and Lionel Messi. Messi extended the lead from the spot and Pedro added the forth.

Barcelona took a long time to find their stride. Zaragoza were tenacious in their attempts to press and win the ball back, and there was also a rugged edge to their game, giving away no fewer than six fouls in as many minutes.

Guardiola’s men were rattled and were finding it difficult to work the ball into dangerous positions. And indeed it was Zaragoza who carved the first big opportunity – when Micael sent the ball in low from the left for Aranda, but the striker miscued his shot.

Messi had a shot blocked, but 20 minutes into the match Barcelona were yet to force a save from Roberto in the Zaragoza goal. At the other end Zaragoza hit the post, and then Lafita beat Valdés to the rebound but was brought down by Barça’s ‘keeper. Turienzo Álvarez signalled what was a relatively clear penalty. Aranda aimed his spot kick towards the right side of goal, but Valdés got across to make a key save.

But Zaragoza continued to break with menace. Just after half an hour Aranda broke the offside trap and got in behind the Barcelona defence. His first shot was saved by Valdés, but the rebound bounced off the striker’s head in and into the goal.

The goal brought Barça to life, and they dominated the rest of the half. Roberto made a point blank save from Alexis, but when the resulting corner came in the Zaragoza ‘keeper’s attempt at a one-handed catch only served to divert the ball down to Puyol’s feet, and the defender was left with an easy chance to make it 1-1.

Zaragoza continued to attack, but it was Barcelona who would score the next goal on the break. After a Zaragoza corner, the away team broke forward with Alexis who carried the ball forward and picked out Messi with a lofted pass across. Messi wriggled past Paolo da Silva before slamming his shot into the top left corner.

A fractious second half saw Zaragoza coach Manolo Jiménez sent to the stands. Neither team could find their stride – Zaragoza looked dangerous early on, when Obradovic volleyed just wide, but Barcelona were soon on the front foot.

Alexis had an excellent chance to make it 3-1 when he was released by a Messi reverse pass and drew a reaction save from Roberto. Later the Chilean forward drew a clumsy tackle from Paredes in the area. Messi powered the penalty into the roof of the net to make the game safe. In injury time Pedro broke down the left, exchanged passes with Messi and tucked his finish neatly past Roberto to add gloss to the victory.

1-0 Aranda (min 29)
1-1 Puyol (min 35)
1-2 Messi (min 38)
1-3 Messi (min 86)
1-4 Pedro (min 91)

Barcelona Make Light Work of Milan

April 4th, 2012

FC Barcelona reached the semi-finals of the Champions League after beating AC Milan 3-1 at the Camp Nou on Tuesday night. Messi scored two penalties and Iniesta slotted home a third. Nocerino scored for AC Milan in the first half, making it 1-1 and briefly giving his team the lead in the tie. At any rate the home team created numerous opportunities and could easily have qualified by a greater margin.

Barcelona dominated both the share of chances and possession in the first half, finding space with relative ease despite the away side’s efforts to sit deep and compact. Milan tended to keep Robinho and Ibrahimovic forward for counter attacks, but for the most part the supply lines were cut off by Barça’s incessant pressing.

The home team started creating opportunities within just a few minutes of the kick-off. Cesc lofted a delicate chip behind the Milan defence for Messi, but Argentine got it wrong and scuffed his shot wide with just Abbiati to beat.

Soon after, Barcelona won a penalty. Messi, seized on an error by Milan high up the pitch. He got into the area but elected to square for Xavi rather than shoot. The ball found its way back to the feet of Messi, who was felled by Antonini as the defender tried to recover. Messi stepped up and tucked the penalty into the bottom left corner.

For the next 20 minutes Barcelona looked very comfortable – keeping the ball well and winning it back before Milan could build any attacks. But suddenly, against the run of play, Ibrahimovic received the ball deep in the Barcelona half and picked out Nocerino as the midfielder overlapped. Nocerino slid the ball beneath Valdes to make it 1-1 with Milan’s first shot on goal and give them the lead in the tie.

There was more urgency from the home team after conceding, and following a couple of shots from distance they earned another penalty. Xavi swung in a corner, but Nesta had a handful of Busquets’ shirt and brought the midfielder down. Messi took the penalty again and dispatched into the bottom right corner this time

Milan emerged with more attacking intent in the second half, but couldn’t achieve more than a couple of corners before Barcelona had exteneded their lead. A Messi shot was deflected into Iniesta’s path. Faced with only the ‘keeper to beat he curled the ball neatly inside the right post.

Milan fought to get a foothold in the match, sending a handful of dangerous long passes behind the Barcelona backline, but Valdés and his defence dealt with them comfortably enough. It was Barcelona who came closest to getting the next goal – Cesc lofted a pass forward to Messi, who chested it down and laid it off for Thiago to just miss the right hand post with a low shot. Later, only a desperate last-second lunge by Abbiati denied Messi a hat-trick after a mix-up in the Milan defence.

1-0 Messi (min 10)
1-1 Nocerino (min 32)
2-1 Messi (min 40)
3-1 Iniesta (min 53)

La liga 2011/2012 – standing after week 31

April 2nd, 2012

Real Madrid and FC Barcelona remain six points apart at the head of the Spanish League table.

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Barcelona See Off Bilbao

April 2nd, 2012

Barcelona produced a dominant performance to defeat Athletic Bilbao 2-0 at the Camp Nou on Saturday night. Iniesta was in sumptuous form, scoring the first with a powerful shot, and Messi completed the scoring from the penalty spot.

Both Barcelona and Athletic face crucial European matches in the coming week, and so it was no surprise to see some players rested. For the away team Llorente, Herrera and Muniain were noticeable for their absence from the lineup, while Puyol and Xavi sat the game out for Barcelona. Four of those five players had entered the game before the final whistle.

In the first half Barcelona carved a handful of opportunities, and Athletic had the quick reflexes of Iraizoz and some spectacular last-ditch defending to thank for keeping them in the contest. Alves took a powerful shot from at least 30 yards that Irazoz could only palm away to his right. From the ensuing passage of play, Piqué slammed a shot over with his left foot from ten yards.

Later, an audacious quick free-kick by Messi almost caught Iraizoz unawares, but the ‘keeper scuttled across his line to tip the shot wide. Then followed a stunning piece of defending by Aurtenetxe – Messi crossed deep from the right for Piqué, who slid in and connected with the ball at the back post. As the ball seemed destined for the net, Aurtenetxe leapt forward and somehow headed it off the goal-line.

All the same, Barcelona took the lead a couple of minutes later. Messi released Iniesta through the centre on the right, and the midfielder showed fantastic pace and strength to fend of the challenge of Ekiza before slamming an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net on the angle of the six-yard box.

Bielsa threw on Herrera and Muniain at the start of the second half, but the home team continued to dominate possession and create openings. Javi Martínez got a crucial block in against Messi as the forward got shot away in the area. Tello then forced another save from Iraizoz, who managed to get down to his left to keep out a curling strike by the Barça winger.

Minutes later Tello played a crucial role in the second goal. He tricked his way past Javi Martínez, buying a foul from the defender as he sought to pull him back. Messi stepped up for the spot-kick and tucked it coolly in the bottom right corner.

By now Barcelona was in a commanding position and could afford to be more patient in their passing. Llorente was now on the pitch for Athletic, but despite a few counter-attacking forays Athletic were still unable to make much of an impact on Barcelona. Iraizoz had to react quickly to push a deflected Iniesta shot over the bar.

Then came Athletic’s best opportunity – De Marcos strode forward and played it through for Munian whose first-time shot trickled past the on-rushing Valdés but was cleared off the by Pique’s outstretched left leg.

1-0 Iniesta (min 39)
2-0 Messi (min 56)

Barcelona Frustrated Away at Resilient Milan

March 29th, 2012

Barcelona head to settle for a 0-0 draw against AC Milan at the San Siro on Wednesday night. Although neither side created too many chances, Barça had more openings, but were just unable to add might the crucial finish. They might also have had a penalty in the first half when Abbiati appeared to bring down Alexis.

AC Milan almost caught Barcelona cold inside three minutes. Heavy pressure from the home team saw Ibrahimovic nod the ball across to Robinho, but the Brazilian forward completely miscued his volley, slicing it harmlessly over.

But after the let-off Barcelona soon found their feet and began to pen Milan back to the edge of their area. With ten minutes gone Messi struck the ball low from the edge of the area – it looked a routine save for the Abbiati, but the man ‘keeper fumbled it, offering a brief opportunity for Alves to steal, who was unable to make the right contact.

The pressure was starting to mount, and Barça should have had a penalty after a cleverly worked free-kick. Alexis got the ball inside the area, fought off a rugged challenge from Nocerino, and when he tried to round Abbiati appeared to be brought down. The referee decided it wasn’t, and Barcelona continued to battle for openings through the massed Milan ranks.

Milan though were still a threat on the break, and mustered another half chance – Ambrosini won the ball back on the halfway line, and Kevin-Prince Boateng threaded a pass through for Ibrahimovic whose attempted left-foot finish was poorly executed and rolled into Valdés’ arms.

Barça resumed their domination but were unable to take the lead before half time – Alexis got in behind the Milan defence, but Atonini recovered to make a key block, and Xavi forced another save from Abbiati with a shot from the edge of the area.

The second half was a much more subdued affair, with few sights of goal for either team. In fact it was more than half an hour before a chance of note. Milan were perhaps the stronger of the two teams in the early stages, as they exerted pressure off the ball on the Barcelona defence. Despite getting the ball in some dangerous areas Milan were unable to force as much as a save from Valdés.

The determined and stubborn performance by some Milan’s defensive players was a major factor that kept Barcelona short of their best going forward. On the rare occasions that Barça found some room, as Messi did against Nesta, a clever foul slowed the game down once more.

As the match wore on Barcelona sensed the upper hand against their dogged but tiring opponents, but just couldn’t make it count. Messi’s shot was blocked by Ambrosini and bounced out for a corner. Xavi curled it in and Puyol saw his diving header flash across the face of goal. Later, Messi wriggled free down the right, but Abbiati made a crucial stop once more.

La liga 2011/2012 – standing after week 30

March 26th, 2012

Barcelona remains six points behind Real Madrid this weekend after temprarily closing the gap to three. However, Real Madrid easily overcame Real Sociedad with a 5-1 win.

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