Week 25, and Football Club Barcelona found themselves in an unfamiliar position. We were starved of three of our most important figures. Carles Puyol, our captain, our second choice captain and our metronome, Xavi Hernandez, and our number one goalkeeper, and third choice captain, Victor Valdes were all injured. To top all of that, Dani Alves, our speedy, right back, and one of the best, if not the best right back in the world was suspended after having picked up five yellow cards in the league. Questions and doubts were being raised throughout the football globe; everyone wondered if we could get through a tricky trip to face Real Mallorca. Like always, our boys responded brilliantly…
Guardiola, having been starved of three of his star players, decided to roll out with his strongest possible lineup. Jose Pinto guarded the Barcelona goal while he opted for a backline consisting of Adriano, Pique, Abidal, and Maxwell. Our midfield included Keita, in for the injured Xavi, Busquets, and Iniesta, in as our fourth choice captain and playing the Xavi role. To top it all off, we had our crème de la crème leading the attack: Villa, Messi, and Pedro. Mallorca coach Michael Laudrup rolled out with a lineup of Aouate in goal, while having Gonzalez, Nunes, Ayoze and Lopez protect him. The midfield consisted of five men and included Marti, Pereira, Ienaga, Nsue, and Tejera, while Webo was deployed as the only striker.
The game started off at a slow space, which was surprising for Barcelona; even more surprising was the fact that Mallorca had the better opening. Pierre Webo twice managed to get a header towards goal following two separate corners, both of which went sailing over the bar. Nsue, scorer of the goal in Mallorca’s 1-1 draw with Barcelona in the Camp Nou, was a handful for Maxwell on the left hand side, but he never managed to create a clear cut chance for the islanders. Barcelona’s first half chance came in the 23rd minute, with Iniesta playing the ball out wide to Maxwell, and the left-back pulled off a one time pass to the path of Villa, who then tried to square it for Messi, and our number 10’s shot was blocked by a Mallorca defender on the edge of the box. In the 36th minute of the game, Iniesta also tried to have a shot at goal, but once again, it was blocked by some desperate defending from Mallorca.
FC Barcelona scored their first goal of the night after some wonderful interplay between Messi and Keita in the 38th minute. Having received the ball thirty yards from goal, Keita turned around and found Messi who quickly returned it back to the onrushing Keita. Keita waited till Messi got into the right position, and then, ripping a page out of Ronaldinho’s books, lobbed it over the Mallorca defense to the onside Messi, who brilliantly controlled it with his head and then dinked it over the goalkeeper with his head. Messi with his 26th goal in La Liga, and clearly surpassing the Marca–helping Ronaldo.
The next couple of minutes of the half were vintage Barca, as they stroked the ball around with ease, while no one managed to get onto the end of a Messi square ball after he had rounded the goalie. The boys went into the dressing room in an uncomfortable position, as they knew Mallorca had the power to overturn the lead.
The second half started where the first half left off with Barcelona stroking the ball around the field comfortably. Mallorca, once again had the first chance of the half with a free kick in a dangerous position in the 49th minute, but nothing materialized off of Nsue’s resulting free kick.
Our precious club then managed to score their second goal of the night through the ferocious striker’s instinct of David Villa. Sergio Busquets inside the Barcelona half, spotted Villa streaking down the middle of the park, played a perfect through ball towards the striker’s path and with Lopez playing him onside, Villa rounded the keeper and tapped the ball into an open goal.
Our third goal of the night came from the P of our MVP trident and what a beauty it was. Having received the ball from Keita on the right hand side of the box, Pedro took a few touches, cut in Gonzalez and Nunes , and after transferring the ball onto his right foot, ripped a shot from the edge of the area that went sailing over the keepers’ head and into the top left corner of the goal. Game, set, and match.
Guardiola decided to make his first substitutions of the game in the 70th minute with oft-criticized striker Bojan coming on for Villa, and our 3 million dollar winter signing Ibrahim Affelay coming on for Pedro Rodriguez. The tempo of the game dropped after the two substitutions and carrying a three-goal lead, it was understandable.
The most exciting sequence of the rest of the game came in the 73rd minute, as Affelay played a sublime pass into the path of Iniesta between the two Mallorca center-halves, and Iniesta having received the ball, decided to round the keeper when it was probably a better option to shoot, and having the angle tightened by the goalie’s pressure, was only able to hit the side netting. The rest of the game slowly cantered to an end, and the only point of interest in the remaining minutes was Guardiola’s third substitution as he decided to replace Adriano with Martin Montoya, giving another real gem from our famed youth academy his debut.
Eight minutes later, the final whistle sounded, and FC Barcelona managed to get another three points at a very tricky place. This team always manages to defy the critics, they always manage to respond to talks of crisis, and the best part is that they always do it in style. It is now 68 points in the league, and as I am writing my first ever review for totalBarca, Real Madrid are in a stalemate with Deportivo La Coruna in the 91st minute, so hopefully the team can finish the week 7 points above our rivals and end talk of a “Crisis.”
[Update: Real Madrid CF have drawn with Deportivo La Coruna and are now 7 points behind our beloved team.]
* My name is Gowtham Prabaharan and I have been chosen as the match reviewer for totalBarca.com. This is my first ever match review on any website so therefore I would appreciate if there were no rude and hurtful comments. Constructive criticism is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much and hope everyone enjoys my post.