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)
This weekend was an important one for Barça, with Real Madrid at the top of the table and Atletico equal on points with the Catalan club. Whatever happened elsewhere, Barcelona needed to win their match, while hoping that the Madrid derby would help out. While championships are never won or lost on a single fixture, the sooner they can leapfrog Madrid and open up the points gap the better.
In the end they didn’t disappoint, while the Madrid derby didn’t quite go as well as it might have. But then again, it means Atletico Madrid are now behind on points rather than behind on goal difference, while Real Madrid are just one point ahead.
Alexis made sure the home side went ahead inside 10 minutes when he fired in a rebound shot by Cesc Fabregas. With possession high as normal, Barça were in control of the game, although perhaps looking a little ragged at times. It took another quarter hour before the next game from Messi, who by luck or design curled the ball into the net from a free kick, way out of reach of the goalkeeper. However, minutes later Almeria got one back from a corner and the break came with Barça just a goal ahead.
Back on after the break Almeria started to look threatening at times, and while both Neymar and Messi both came close the score remained as it was. With Iniesta brought on though the dynamic changed and inn the 83rd minute Messi headed the ball to the crossbar with Puyol put it home to make it 3-1. With the minutes ticketing down it looked as though Barcelona had just about done enough, but three minutes before the end Xavi scored again to seal the win for Barcelona.
1-0 Alexis (min 8)
2-0 Messi (min 23)
2-1 Trujillo (min 26)
3-1 Puyol (min 81)
4-1 Xavi (min 87)
With three teams tying for points at the head of the table it was just a matter of time before the deadlock was broken; this Saturday was when it happened. Earlier in the afternoon Real Madrid had played host to Elche, beating the visitors 3-0.
FC Barcelona’s match in San Sebastian turned out to be a different matter, with the Catalans unable to get fully into the game it and seeming to be lacking. Things started to unwind at the half hour mark when Real Sociedad scored from an Alex Song own goal, but even then it was just a matter of minutes before Messi struck back to equalise.
After the break things went badly wrong. Soon Griezmann but the Basques into the lead again followed by Zurutuza just minutes later. With Gerardo Martino receiving several warning from the ref during the first half he was obliged to sit out the second half from the stands. How much this affected Barça is impossible to know, but whatever the reason the Catalans were just unable to recover from this setback and ended the match 3-1 down.
The result leaves Barça trailing Real Madrid by three points, just ahead of Atletico Madrid on goal difference after they also lost on Sunday. There is still a long way to go in the league and there is still plenty of time for things to change. However, Barcelona can’t afford to have many more matches like that if they want to take this season’s league trophy.
1-0 Alex Song (min 31)
1-1 Messi (min 35)
2-1 Griezmann (min 52)
3-1 Zurutuza (min 57)
Goals by Leo Messi and Dani Alves ensured that Barcelona go into the return leg of the Champions League knockout against Manchester City as firm favourites for the semi-final. Early on Barcelona had close to 75% possession, but despite the impressive stats they were unable make it count.
However, as the hosts got into the match after the first quarter hour they began to threaten and soon Victor Valdes was called into action. Luckily every time he was needed Valdes was there and perhaps he wasn’t always as clean in stopping the ball as he would have liked, he was effective throughout.
Although the first half ended goalless, it wasn’t long after the break before the deadlock was broken when, eight minutes into the second half, Messi was brought down on the edge of the area by Demichelis. While replays showed it was probably outside the area the ref thought otherwise and Demichelis sent off. Messi scored from the penalty spot to put the Catalans ahead.
With one man down Pellegrini made some changes to the Man City lineup, but Barcelona was still unable to do as much as might be expected. The hosts had by no means given up on the match, while Barcelona wanted to slow down the pace as much as they could. Neymar came on for the last twenty minutes in place of Alexis and just as it looked as if Barça was going to win by a single goal a last minute move but Alves and Neymar saw Alves shoot the ball between the keeper’s legs and win the match 2-0.
0-1 Messi (min 53)
0-2 Dani Alves (min 89)
Saturday night was the turn of Rayo Vallecano, second bottom of the league, to play the mighty Barça at the Nou Camp. The first goal came inside two minutes with Adriando showing how Barcelona continued to go on, and although they dominated possession Rayo also had a couple of opportunities that looked dangerous.
The Barcelona attack was relentless though and with the ball hitting the posts time and time again it only looked a matter of time for the second goal from the hosts. Eventually it came when Messi chipped the ball over the head of the Rayo keeper and into the net and the first half ended 2-0.
Back on after the break Barça continued the attack and just a few minutes in Alexis scored their third of the night. Minutes later they made it 4-0 when Pedro scored after a fantastic move from Iniesta and Cesc. Despite the match being well under control, Barcelona maintained the pressure and Messi scored his second of the night.
Finally, just a couple of minutes before the full time whistle, Neymar, playing for last 20 minutes after a six week injury layoff, made it six for Barça. All in all a great confidence booster ahead of their Champions League clash against Manchester City on Tuesday.
1-0 Adriano (min 1)
2-0 Messi (min 35)
3-0 Alexis (min 52)
4-0 Pedro (min 55)
5-0 Messi (min 67)
6-0 Neymar (min 88)