Barcelona Survive Russian Cold Front
Barcelona were determined to put last season’s Champions League semi final exit behind them and embark on another long and winding road to London in order to get their hands on club football’s most coveted prize. They took to the Camp Nou tonight with their tails up after a blistering start to La Liga which has left Madrid a staggering eight points behind. Their bitter rivals clawed their way to a frantic victory last night against Man City – but surely Barcelona would have no such trouble dispensing with Spartak Moscow at home?
In the absence of their talismanic captain Puyol, the back line consisted of Alves, Pique, Mascherano and Adriano. Busquets, Cesc and Xavi shored up the midfield and Pedro, Messi and youngster Tello relegated David Villa to the bench. Few could believe it when with scarcely ten minutes on the clock Gerard Pique was called ashore with a suspected ankle injury. The home side’s two pillars of defence had fallen in two games giving Tito Vilanova a headache with team selection that would even have left Guardiola pulling his hair out. Alex Song was thrown into the deep end in his stead in a back line that was looking more makeshift by the minute.
However, home grown Tello wasn’t reading the script and found himself on the score sheet three minutes later after making room on the left flank and drilling a low right footed drive into the corner of the net. Dani Alves was the next name on the score sheet but it wasn’t at the right end. Emenike left Mascherano for dead and slung a right footed low cross into the box which bypassed Song but somehow forced Alves to plant the ball past Valdes to level the score.
The second half continued as the first had ended with Barcelona dominating and Spartak dangerous on the break, and Romulo gave the visitors the lead in the 57th minute after some sloppy defending at the back. Vilanova threw caution to the wind and put on Sanchez for Dani Alves. With their noses in front, the Russians were proving tough customers. They tried to muscle Barcelona out of the game and the home side were finding it impossible to break down the iron curtain. However, Tello was at hand again in the 70th minute with some deft skill to beat his man and break for the touchline before gifting a left footed cutback to Messi who leveled the game from six yards.
Tello was the called off and received a standing ovation as Villa took to the pitch and he almost immediately found himself on the score sheet after latching onto a loose ball with an empty net in his sights but the chance went a begging. With the sands of time running out there was just time for one last encore for Messi who latched onto a chipped cross from the impressive Sanchez to head home the winner. The home side were fortunate tonight to come away with a victory, however Tito Vilanova will not be complaining as he sees his excellent 100% record continue. Visca Barca! Visca Catalunya! And Visca Vilanova!
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