With glorious goal fests and clean sheets becoming a routine, Barcelona had to come up with something extra special to get the pulses racing at the Camp Nou. A hard-fought match where Viktoria Plzen defended very well saw Barcelona grind out a 2-0 victory in the end.
Barcelona lined out with Abidal and Mascherano at the back and Alves and Adriano as wing-backs but they clearly had no intentions of defending and it only took nine minutes for them to break the deadlock with the most sublime of openers. Iniesta and Messi exchanged three consecutive one- twos before the pale assassin dinked the ball past the final defender and slotting the ball coolly into the net on the half volley.
The next twenty minutes were a master class in clinical passing and movement with good chances falling to Messi and Pedro. Messi was pulled down with a shirt tug in the area after another one- two with Iniesta but no penalty was given. The best chance fell just before the half hour mark when a long ball from Adriano set up Villa on the counter attack. He stalled his run, dribbled into the box from the left wing and placed a ball into the path of Messi who should have scored. However, Messi’s miss was soon forgotten as Pedro ballooned the ball over the bar when it seemed easier to score.
Barcelona kept knocking but somehow the score line remained unchanged. Pedro was released by Villa and rounded the keeper but his touch was too heavy and the Czech champions remained in the game. Messi rattled the bar with a 30 yard left footed free kick just before the half time whistle and both teams ran for the tunnel wondering how the score line remained so conservative.
After the restart Barcelona owned the ball and tried to fashion the perfect goal. On the fifty three minute mark, Messi went on a mazy run and rounded defender after defender but couldn’t beat the keeper from close range. Six minutes later he embarked on an even more spectacular solo, beating four challenges before striking the post from a tight angle. There was almost a huge upset on the hour mark as Dani Alves and Valdes mixed up their calls and almost gifted the visitors an open net. However, with four minutes on the clock, Villa robbed the ball and unleashed a counter attack. He bore down on goal, but snuck a pass to Messi, who took a touch too many and was bundled over in the area. The ball bobbled back to Villa who lashed the ball home much to his delight and Guardiola’s relief. Villa was called ashore and granted a well deserved breather to make way for 20 year old debutant Isaac Cuenca, but the game finished two nil.
However credit must be granted to the Czech side who came to the Nou Camp and managed to keep Messi scoreless and the scoreboard respectable so they can return home with their heads held high.
Image Credit: Reuters Pictures