FC Barcelona punished a lethargic Deportivo Alavés away at the Estadio Mendizorrotza six to nil. Alavés lost the plot in the second half conceding four goals in the span of eight minutes. The match should have ended as revenge for the home defeat Alavés afflicted the club earlier in the season and as a warning to their future Copa del Rey final opponents. Unfortunately, the match will be remembered and marred by the late horrific ankle injury to Aleix Vidal.
With one eye towards the Champions League match against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday, Gerard Piqué, Jordi Alba, and Andrés Iniesta were all rested with the latter two becoming second half subs. In their place stood Jérémy Mathieu, Lucas Digne, and André Gomes. Vidal started the match and again made an argument to be the starter at right back. In goal stood Marc-André ter Stegen joined by Samuel “unbeatable” Umtiti in rare start on the right side of defense. Ivan Rakitić continued his revival in right midfield and as usual MSN started up front.
Barcelona struggled early to break down a resolute Alavés defense. The home side fielded a 4-5-1 just outside of their own box in an attempt to suffocate Barcelona’s passing lanes. Counter attacks resulted yet were rebuffed. In the sixth minute Umtiti got called for a soft yellow stopping a break and in the 35th ter Stegen stopped a one on one after Digne was beaten for pace. Sergio Busquets was the highlight of the early exchanges with his threaded through balls and classy play.
The breakthrough for Barcelona came in the 37th minute. Lionel Messi played his classic left footed long switch to Neymar on the wing who in turn danced toward the box. Neymar slid a quick ball into Luis Suárez who back heeled the ball to Ivan. Ivan found Aleix on the edge of the box who crossed it into a streaking Suarez, and he scored first time. The play was a microcosm of everything great about the club and was reminiscent of the fabled Pep Guardiola sides.
Three minutes later Barcelona found the net once again. Messi received the ball at the top of the box and tried to complete a chip pass to Luis. Fernando Pacheco punched the ball right onto Suárez’s head, and it fell kindly to Neymar who put the ball away. Suárez will say he meant to serve the ball up to the Brazilian. Whatever the case it was a welcome goal for the Brazilian and put the club ahead two to nil.
Barcelona came out of the tunnel in the second half flat. Up two to nil away is a dangerous score line. A goal for Alavés and they would be right back into the match. Lucas made sure that would not happen with a last ditch tackle in the 56th minute. A goal for Barcelona and the match would be over. The club stressed the word “over” starting in 59th minute and in quick succession put an end to the match erasing any thoughts of their sluggish beginnings.
Messi with a strong defensive push won the ball back in the box. His touch drove him to an acute angle left of the net but he took his time as only a player with his exquisite exploits can. He decided to score the only way he possibly could by nutmegging the keeper. Nine times out of ten that kind of shot would never see the back of the net. The line was took fine to the near post, but few have the finishing ability Lionel Messi has.
Four minutes later Gomes won the ball in the midfield and played a nice one, two with Sergio who found Luis downfield in the left channel. He cut inside the box like sharp razor and found Messi in stride. The Argentine’s movement was too much for the Alavés defense who put the ball into back of their own net. The own goal robbed us all of another magnificent Messi goal.
It only took three more minutes for the Catalans to notch another tally on the score sheet. The unstoppable Messi found Luis in the box and he back heeled it to Ivan. The Swiss born Croatian hammered a beautiful shot into the left corner of net. The goal scoring movement was as unstoppable as Messi is unplayable in this kind of form.
Not to be outdone their next goal scoring movement came less than sixty seconds later. A driving Messi found Luis to his right. The Uruguayan crossed the ball to Neymar who attempted a devilish shot. The shot was saved but fell back to Suarez who finished the goal scoring for the match with a devastating shot.
The match was almost a total victory for the Barça. They kept a clean sheet, scored six goals, even Sergi Roberto saw some time in the pivot role, but then the 85th minute happened. Aleix tried to bring the ball out of the defense but was wiped out by a tackle from Theo Hernández. The injury to his ankle was significant.