In a game that ended with only one blaugrana on the pitch not from La Masia (Alexis Sánchez), Barcelona excelled in demonstrating yet again how brilliantly and effectively its footballing philosophy can carry it. Pep Guardiola’s side stylishly cut the deficit with Real Madrid to one, albeit with a game in hand.
With a brace from Alexis and two more goals from Pedro and Lionel Messi, Barcelona exercised its best passing game against Getafe at the Camp Nou, maintaining a solid 73 percent possession, effectively avenging the 1-0 loss at the Alfonso Pérez in Madrid back in November.
After the 0-0 draw sustained by Real Madrid and Valencia this past Sunday, the smell of blood was in the water, and Pep’s line up indicated the blaugrana were ready to go into frenzy. One natural defender featured in the starting lineup for Pep’s side, while four forwards featured in the front line for Barça.
Barcelona lined up with Pedro, Alexis, Messi and Isaac Cuenca and kept such a ridiculous amount of width, most Culés likely watched the match with this look on their faces. Pedro and Cuenca were available at the drop of the hat to draw Getafe’s midfield out of shape, while maintaining a steady flow of diagonal runs and frightening attempts on Getafe keeper Miguel Ángel Moyà.
Behind the attack, Barcelona featured a three-man backline with Puyol, Javier Mascherano and Adriano from left to right, respectively. In midfield, Sergio Busquets played his typical phenomenal, self-made role of distributor-cum-pacemaker by spraying out passes to his immense amount of options and dictating the tempo through several crucial interceptions. Xavi and Iniesta completed the already stellar lineup, and helped maintain the possession to devastating effect.
Getafe lined up with a 4-2-3-1, counting on Miguel Torres, Cata Díaz, Alexis and Masilela in defense. Casquero and Rubén Pérez played as defensive mids, and Pedro Rios, Juan Rodríguez and Diego Castro lined up as wingers and attacking midfielders. Miku roamed around up top as the central focus of Getafe’s passing game, despite little time on the ball.
It took the sharks little time to begin to pick their opponents apart. Puyol, who played extraordinarily wide, opened the shots on net with a header in the fourth minute, earning a save from Moyà.
Iniesta was the next to test the Getafe keeper, who pushed an omen of a shot wide in the 12th minute, despite it being slightly off net.
It was about a minute later when Iniesta chipped an audacious ball into a high-traffic area, right to the chest of a vigilant Messi, who bumped the ball perfectly into the path of an onrushing Sanchez. It took Sanchez but two touches to blast the ball over the keeper and put the Catalans in front.
Cata Díaz, who had a tortured time defending his area, played valiantly and cleared a contentious goal off the line some minutes later. While definitive video was for some reason lacking, a brilliant Xavi chip over Moyà was ruled as a non-goal and both teams were forced to play on at 1-0. Cata also managed to shut down Pedro’s and Adriano’s thru-balls on several occasions.
In the 23rd minute, Busquets lobbed a brilliant ball, cutting out half of Getafe’s field players, to the on-rushing Messi only for Getafe’s keeper to dive and preserve the fragile deficit.
Minutes later Rubén Pérez found a loose ball at the top of the Barcelona 18-yard box and blasted it within inches of the post. Had it not been for a well-timed Mascherano block, a screened Valdes would not have had a chance.
Messi and Iniesta linked up shortly afterwards with a couple of one-twos to make it 2-0. Messi passed to his comrade, who back heeled the ball perfectly to his Argentine comrade. Messi took one look at the ball and slammed it into the upper ninety for his 61st goal of the season.
Messi gave another salute to the history books shortly after, with a diving header in the 50th minute. The ref did not appreciate the effort however, as a sneaky Argentine fist was seen striking the ball in the replay and Messi picked up a yellow for his Maradona-esque tactics.
As the game wrapped up, a beautiful cross from Cuenca found Alexis, who powered the ball into the back of the net. Despite it looking like Cuenca should have walked the ball in, his well-timed cross was just the thing Barça needed to kill off the match.
But Pep’s men were not quite finished. As Pedro had had a crucial match with his off-the-ball-movement, he solidified his return to form with a fantastic blind header over Getafe’s helpless keeper after a fine set piece from Messi.
Barcelona finished the match with the inclusion of Montoya, Tello and Muniesa for Adriano, Pedro and Mascherano, respectively, and Messi dribbling the living hell out of Getafe’s entire defense. The plucky Argentine would have found the back of the net, or a teammate if not for a lucky hand by Moya, resulting in the keeper’s ninth and final save of the evening.
The victory keeps Barcelona in a close second behind Madrid, while Getafe briefly falls into tenth place, though Athletic Bilbao and cross-town rivals Rayo Vallecano could overcome the Madrid club in their upcoming matches.
With the Madrid derby occurring tomorrow, Barcelona will undoubtedly sleep a little easier knowing it has kept the heat on Jose Mourinho’s side.
Image Credit: JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images