FC Barcelona won 2-0 against Viktoria Plzen at the Camp Nou, but it was not a vintage showing from the Blaugrana. An early goal from Andres Iniesta could have started a real drubbing, but the Czech champions held firm until David Villa scored a late goal.
There was no Gerard Pique or Carles Puyol in FC Barcelona’s starting line-up, though Pep Guardiola kept the 4-3-3, much to my surprise. With Viktoria Plzen in a 4-4-2, you could sense that Barcelona were going to create chances, and it didn’t take them long to get started.
Two minutes had gone, and two chances had been created, the most significant of which being Dani Alves’ shot after a one-two with Lionel Messi. Blazing over from inside the box, it was a decent chance, but the Brazilian could not convert.
The build-up play was sumptuous as per usual, but on the 10 minute mark, the Blaugrana got their breakthrough, and in some style. Lionel Messi again involved, but this time he was playing a one-two with Andres Iniesta, and Iniesta juggled the ball past a Plzen challenge, before letting it drop onto his left foot and finishing into the bottom corner. It was some goal, even for Barcelona’s standards, and at that point, one could be forgiven for thinking that Plzen were in for a real beating.
Pedro was next to try his luck, recovering well after a slip to fire a shot wide at the near post. David Villa tried to bend in a shot from just outside the area, but his effort went agonizingly wide at the far post.
Villa then turned creator for Lionel Messi, cutting inside a defender to feed the Argentine, and La Pulga skipped past one challenge, but his chip was saved by the Plzen goalkeeper. All in all, it summed up Barcelona’s night: the promise and skill was there, but the control was just lacking. Plzen were gaining in confidence, but for all their possession and defensive discipline they could not create a real chance.
The game was in a lull, and with half-time looming, it seemed as though we would have to settle for a 1-0 lead at the break, though Lionel Messi would have the last kick of the half with a free-kick from 25 yards out. Plzen tried to cover the line, thought better of it, and Messi let rip, but the post was there to save Plzen from the killer blow.
It was unlucky, but Guardiola would surely not be happy at half-time. Barcelona were average in that first-half.
The second half started as the first one finished, with plenty of chances falling to Lionel Messi. First he slalomed past two Plzen defenders before being blatantly fouled, but Messi would not go down, and after beating another couple of defenders, he sent a shot straight at the keeper. Now, a less honest player would have went down and got the penalty, but Messi to his credit stayed on his feet. Then again, he was fouled, so falling over would not have been a dive. That particular trait of Messi is both loveable and frustrating.
Next he exhibited his jaw-dropping skill, dribbling along the goal-line and humiliating a Plzen defender into the bargain. Avoiding challenge after challenge in the tightest of spaces, Messi went for a cute little dink past the keeper, but the post again came to the rescue.
The next half-chance was the result of a one-two, this time between Messi and Alves, and the Brazilian fed in an excellent cross along the six-yard line, but Messi could not get the touch needed to divert the ball into the net. You may be seeing a pattern here: Lionel Messi was on a one-man mission to get a goal.
After failing in more conventional methods, La Pulga opted to try and repeat his goal against Arsenal in last year’s Champions League. Flicking the ball over the hopeless goalkeeper, Messi went to take the final touch to put the ball into the empty net, but a Plzen defender got across just in time to nick the ball off his feet.
The second half was just revolving around Messi, and when he went down clutching his ankle, the whole world held its breath...would Messi be OK? What happened? Can he continue?
Thankfully, it was just a firm knock, and he could carry on after a little treatment, and he was still searching that elusive goal. David Villa played a lovely pass through the legs of a Plzen defender, Messi was then fouled, but the ball fell to Villa and he would make no mistake with the finish. Barca had their second goal, and El Guaje got his seventh of the season.
Messi nearly got his goal in added time, curling the ball just wide of the goal, but maybe he was just saving the magic for Saturday night and Sevilla?
Man of the match goes to David Villa for his unselfishness in attack, and for tracking back admirably on defensive duties. Record goal-scorer for Spain, it was nice to see Villa creating chances when he had every right to shoot.
Next up is yet another home game, this time to Sevilla a game Bostjan will be attending. Let’s hope the performance is a little better!
Visca el Barca!