FC Barcelona had already lost its first trophy of the season, the Spanish Super Cup, to rivals Real Madrid CF midweek. Against Valencia CF, the Catalans hoped to maintain their league dominance over the Castilians, who already trailed by five points in the table.
Head coach Tito Vilanova started Victor Valdés, Javier Mascherano, Gerard Piqué, Adriano, Dani Alves, Alex Song, Cesc Fàbregas, Xavi, Pedro, Lionel Messi and Alexis Sánchez. Valencia countered with Diego Alves, Victor Ruiz, Adil Rami, Aly Cissokho, Joao Pereira, Alberto Costa, David Albelda, Andrés Guardado, Sofiane Feghouli, Roberto Soldado and Jonas.
Pedro enjoyed Barcelona’s first opportunity of the game in the eighth minute, but his shot merited a save from Valencia’s goalkeeper Diego Alves. Three minutes later, Valencia had its first chance when Soldado rocketed a shot from distance but missed to the right of the net.
It only took Piqué 13 minutes to earn a yellow card. He committed a harsh foul on Jonas. Luckily for Barcelona, the foul didn’t lead to a goal. In fact, Barcelona was the team with the next opportunity. Messi’s header sailed over the crossbar in the 16th minute after a cross from Adriano.
Just three minutes later, it was Déjà vu for Diego Alves as Messi again struck with a header, this time from a Dani Alves cross. But the ‘keeper was up to the challenge and able to parry La Pulga’s shot. The same minute, Adriano missed a distance shot to the right.
Valencia’s defense felt the pressure of Barcelona’s attack. And in the 22nd minute, the ball finally hit the back of the net for the Catalans. Xavi passed in a trademark short corner to Messi who tapped the ball on to Adriano. The Brazilian saw an opening and didn’t hesitate, striking the ball into the top right corner of the net from well outside of the box.
With a 1-0 lead, Barcelona gained even more confidence in the offense. In the 24th minute, Pedro’s shot after a Xavi through ball elicited a save from Diego Alves. Two minutes later, Cesc ricocheted the ball of the left post.
The referee showed Guardado a yellow card in the 28th minute for impeding a free kick. The next few minutes marked several foul and subsequent free kick situations for both teams. It wasn’t until the 39th minute when the next chance arrived. Feghouli missed his strike high and wide after a set piece.
The last five minutes of play in the first half passed without further excitement. At halftime, only one team made a substitution. Jordi Alba replaced Dani Alves in the defense.
The first opportunity of the second half fell to Barcelona in the 49th minute. Xavi passed the ball to Adriano who missed the net high and wide. In the 54th minute, another Barcelona shot flew over the bar, this one by Cesc after an assist from Alexis. Five minutes later, Adriano was again on the attack. His distance shot earned a save from Diego Alves.
The 64th minute saw Barcelona’s second substitution of the match. Andrés Iniesta came on for a largely disappointing Cesc. The same minute, the referee gave Albelda a yellow card. Guardado created Valencia’s first chance of the half in the 73rd minute. Valdés collected Guardado’s distance shot in the center of the goal, though.
Four minutes later Valencia made two changes to its lineup. Jonathan Viera switched with Guardado, and Fernando Gago came on in place of Albelda. In the 81st minute, Feghouli took Nelson Valdez’s place on the bench. Barcelona’s final substitution came minutes later when Sergio Busquets replaced Alexis.
Valencia made a late press for a goal in the 90th minute. After a corner, Costa made a cross to Ruiz in the box. However, his short-range shot popped just over the crossbar. The same minute, Jonas’ shot from outside the box was too high after a headed pass from Valdez.
While the final score line may only have been 1-0, Barcelona tallied another three points in its pursuit of a La Liga trophy.
Image Source: Toni Albir (EFE)