After Brazil’s opening match and Spain’s humiliation at the hands of the Dutch, last night saw Argentina take centre stage captained by Barça superstar Lionel Messi.
Despite often being considered the best player in the world, Messi is yet to make an impact on the World Cup. And despite admitting to nerves last night his move when it came resulted in a fantastic goal, only his second World Cup goal in nine matches, the last being in 2006!
Argentina went ahead against Bosnia and Herzegovina early on thanks to an own goal by Sead Kolašinac, with the Argentine side certainly lacking against a side that had never scored a World Cup goal. However, after the break and a change of formation, Argentina started to look far more comfortable and Gonzalo Higuain helped set up a spectacular goal for Messi 20 minutes into the second half.
With Argentina now looking more comfortable and with a two goal advantage things were looking far better. Five minutes from the end Vedad Ibišević closed the gap but Argentina held onto their lead to take three points to head Group F.
Argentina’s next match is against Iran on 21st June.
1-0 Kolašinac (min 3)
2-0 Messi (min 65)
2-1 Ibišević (min 85)
FC Barcelona has inked an improved deal with Lionel Messi that will secure he remains with the club for the foreseeable future. A provisional deal was agreed at the end of last week and finally signed yesterday.
Although details have not been released it is reported the contract will earn Messi the equivalent of £16.3 million a year, making him the best paid player in the world.
In exchange for the higher payout from Barça Messi has given up a proportion of his image rights, which will be paid to FC Barcelona instead.
Saturday afternoon saw a disappointing result for FC Barcelona after when a match that looked like it was in the bag resulted in a draw due to a last minute goal from Getafe. The first home match since the death of Tito Vilanova last month started off slowly, while the Getafe defence prevented anything happening when the Catalans did get things together.
Although Barça was denied from playing their normal flowing style, finally Alves and Messi got together for a decisive move. Messi started to move, passing to Alves who powered up the right hand side of the pitch, crossed to Messi who put the ball in the net. After 22 minutes the deadlock was broken and Barcelona ahead!
Barça’s lead lasted 14 minutes, until a free kick awarded against them resulted in the visitors equalising. And despite a good move by Alexis towards the end of the first half the break came with the two teams level.
The second half started with Barcelona looking in much better form that before the break and started creating problems for Getafe. Bringing on Cesc Fabregas in place of Mascherano 20 minutes in quickly yielded results, with Cesc starting a move that saw Alexis score Barcelona’s second goal of the afternoon.
However, time and time again as the minutes counted down Barça was unable to score again, despite being given space to do so. And then, well into injury time, just before the final whistle blew the visitors scored again to level with Barcelona.
1-0 Messi (min 22)
1-1 Lafita (min 36)
2-1 Alexis (min 68)
2-2 Lafita (min 93)
Sunday’s match was bound to be a tough one after the shock of Tito Vilanova’s death from cancer on Friday. The players knew him well, having worked with him since he was Pep Guardiola’s right hand man prior to taking over the top job himself, and as a product of the club’s youth programme himself, he was Barça through and through.
After a minute’s silence for their much respected former coach, FC Barcelona dominated from the start but despite high possession they were unable to break through to Villarreal defence. Messi looked like he might do something for the Catalans to no avail; and when the hosts got the chance they really went for it too.
However, just when the first half looked like it would end goalless a last minute counter attack from Villarreal resulted in them going into the break ahead.
Back on after the break things started unravelling further for Barça when the home side scored a second goal 10 minutes in and it started to look like their slender league hopes would be dashed completely. However, two own goals from Villarreal in the space of a quarter hour levelled the score, a huge piece of luck for Barcelona; the second was a fantastic header by Musacchio that he is unlikely to forget any time soon.
Now on an even keel it was down to Messi five minutes later to put Barça ahead and completely turned around the match from the disaster it had looked at one point.
1-0 Cani (min 45)
2-0 Manu Trigueros (min 54)
2-1 Gabriel (min 64)
2-2 Musacchio (min 77)
2-3 Messi (min 82)
Nothing much has seemed to go right for Barça of late, with FIFA’s transfer ban shortly preceding the club’s ejection from Champions League by Atletico Madrid and then the loss against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final last week. And then there are the league woes.
Athletic Bilbao are always a tough opponent and, standing fourth in the table, well up to strength this season. With Barça suffering three straight losses, Messi not performing lately and a number of players unavailable through injury last night’s match was always going to be tough. Messi did appear to have overcome at least some of his woes and appeared to have scored 18 minutes in. However, the ref ruled the goal offside and despite some chances the first half ended goalless.
It didn’t take long after the players came back on for the first goal of the match, when Aduriz scored for the Basque team four minutes in. The visitors looked to have scored a second soon after but, like Messi’s goal, it was ruled offside.
However, as Barcelona started to pile on the pressure things started to look better and finally, 25 minutes into the second half, Pedro scored the equaliser. Just two minutes later Messi blasted a free kick through the wall to put the Catalans ahead and seal three points.
0-1 Aduriz (min 49)
1-1 Pedro (min 71)
2-1 Messi (min 73)
After Tuesday’s Champions League tie against Atletico Madrid, Barcelona’s draw this weekend looked relatively easy with Real Betis at the bottom of the league, having won just five matches all season.
The week has been overshadowed by the fourteen month transfer fan handed the club by FIFA for breaking rules on the signing of minors for its youth training program, which might have big repercussions given that Victor Valdes is set to leave the club at the end of the season, as is captain Carles Puyol. And Saturday was also the date on which the club membership was being asked to vote for the Camp Nou redevelopment plans.
Despite Barça going ahead quarter of an hour into the first half with a Messi goal from the penalty spot it was far from clear that the Catalans would win this match. As is usual with FC Barcelona, possession remained high, but try as they might they were unable to penetrate the Betis defense for a clear shot at the goal with the result that the first half ended 1-0.
Back on after the break Betis looked as if they might do something and, given that they almost certaonly face relegation at the end of the season, have little to lose. It looked as if it would just be a matter of time before the visitors scored.
However, during an attack on the Betis goal, defender Jordi Figueras kicked the ball into his own net instead of clearing it. It looked as if Barça would have scored anyway, but the players’ faces showed how it affected morale. Despite this Rubén Castro scored almost immediately after, closing the gap on Barcelona and again making the final rsult less clear. Victory was sealed within the last 10 minutes though when Messi scored his second of the evening from the spot after a handball in the area by Amaya.
1-0 Messi (min 14)
2-0 Jordi (own goal, min 65)
2-1 Rubén Castro (min 66)
3-1 Messi (min 84)
Saturday afternoon saw Futbol Club Barcelona travel the short distance to Cornella-El Prat to face Espanyol in the Barcelona derby. With an early kick off the match was a tough one for Barça, who scraped to a win thanks to a second half penalty kicked by Leo Messi. Both teams put on a good performance, with Barcelona missing a couple of early opportunities to go ahead, but despite playing well, the hosts were quick to take any opportunity whenever it arose. Despite this the first half ended with neither team scoring.
After the break saw more of the same but as Espanyol’s players began to tire the number of fouls committed against Barça rapidly rose, but it took a handball inside the Espanyol area to provide the opportunity that provided the only goal of the match, Messi calmly putting the ball into the back of the net to put Barcelona into the lead.
Espanyol’s fate was really sealed though when their keeper came forward out of the area and saved the ball, earning a red card. With Espanyol’s substitutions already made it took a while to decide who was to wear his number 13 shirt, with defender Javi López eventually pulling it on over his own shirt and donning the gloves. While they were perhaps the most terrifying minutes of his life, the countdown to the final whistle saw him acquit himself well, stopping the ball twice.
Following Barcelona’s clasico win on Sunday night and a single point separating them from the top two league places it was important to follow up last night with another win and whatever happens elsewhere Barça cannot at this point afford to slip up again and seemed to have regained some confidence from last weekend.
That quickly turned into an early result for the Catalans, when a move just five minutes in from Iniesta, Messi and Alexis saw Neymar score the opener. However, after initial jubilation when Victor Valdes made a save following a free kick awarded against Barça it became clear that he was injured and after receiving medical attention was stretchered off to be replaced by Pinto.
The initial prognosis is poor, with an expected six month recovery for torn knee ligaments and it has been this morning confirmed that he will require surgery. That almost certainly means he will sit out the remainder of the season, his last at the club after deciding not to renew his contract, as well as scotching any chance of playing for Spain in the World Cup this summer. After that bad news both Barça and fans were a little subdued, but just before the 30 minute mark Messi scored the second goal of the night to bring a little cheer to the Nou Camp.
Back on after the break Iniesta was taken off due to a thigh strain with Sergi Roberto replacing him. Celta immediately applied pressure with Pinto soon being called into action and making a couple of great saves. Soon after it looked like Cesc Fabregas had made it 3-0, only to be ruled offside, but then 20 minutes from the end it was Neymar who scored the third goal and effectively sealed the result for Barça. If it wasn’t bad enough having Valdes injured, Pinto looked winded for a few moments after hitting the post after stopping the ball but after ice on his knee he was up on his feet again to the relief of everyone.
1-0 Neymar (min 5)
2-0 Messi (min 29)
3-0 Neymar (min 70)
What a difference a week can make. Last weekend Barcelona seemed to be in crisis after losing against Valladolid, but Sunday afternoon saw the club pull Osasuna apart in a 7-0 win just days after seeing Man City off in Champions League.
Leo Messi opened the scoring after the quarter hour mark, thereby equalling the club record for goals scored by a player, with Alexis making it two just minutes later. And when Iniesta scored goal number three for Barça it was clear that the team wanted to make it clear that they have not given up hope in La Liga and pretty much tying up the result.
Back on after the break Messi became the number one goal scorer in Barça’s history, as the crowd roared their appreciation; fifteen minutes later Tello scored goal number five; and then just minutes before the end Messi made it a hat trick. Even then Barcelona had not finished as Pedro scored goal number seven just before the final whistle went.
1-0 Messi (min 17)
2-0 Alexis (min 21)
3-0 Iniesta (min 33)
4-0 Messi (min 61)
5-0 Tello (min 76)
6-0 Messi (min 86)
7-0 Pedro (min 89)
Following last weekend’s disappointing result against Valladolid the knives have been out for coach Gerardo Martino, with many sections of the press and supporters baying for his blood. However, last night’s Champions League encounter showed that Barça are not yet done and showed that they still have what it takes to win.
Possession was more evenly matched that FC Barcelona is usually used to, with a slight tilt in the favour of the Catalans, but throughout the first half the two teams looked pretty evenly matched. At this stage of the competition that should be no surprise and when the half time whistle came neither side had scored.
Back on after the break it took 20 minutes for Messi to opener, but the balance changed when the visitors went down to 10 men after Zabaleta was shown his second yellow. Although City scored an equaliser two minutes before the end it was too little too late and but a Dani Alves goal right at the end made sure of a quarter-final place for Barcelona.
1-0 Messi (min 66)
1-1 Kompany (min 88)
2-1 Dani Alves (min 90)