La Liga: RCD Mallorca 2-4 FC Barcelona: Match Review

David Ramos

A recap of Barcelona's 4-2 away win over Real Mallorca at the Iberostar, as goals from Lionel Messi (2), Xavi Hernandez and Cristian Tello were enough to secure a well-deserved victory

Barcelona recovered from an early second-half blip to dispatch Real Mallorca at the Iberostar Stadium and temporarily extend their lead at the top to six points. Xavi put the Blaugrana ahead with a sublime curling free-kick on 27 minutes, Lionel Messi made it two on 44 minutes thanks to an error from Dudu Aouate and Cristian Tello extended Barca’s lead to three with virtually the final kick of the first-half. However, Mallorca were much-improved after the break and threatened to pull off a stunning comeback against their table-topping visitors as Michael Pereira’s volley and Victor’s penalty reduced the deficit to a single goal. Tito Vilanova responded by replacing David Villa with Alexis Sanchez and the substitution paid off as the Chilean set up Messi for his second of the evening which turned out to be the final nail in Mallorca’s coffin.

Mallorca

Barcelona

Possession

22%

78%

Total Shots

5

9

Shots on Target

3

4

Pass Accuracy

70%

89%

Fouls

11

5

Offsides

2

2

Yellow Cards

1

1

Red Cards

0

0

Tito reacted to Wednesday’s defeat to Celtic by making five changes to his starting XI as Gerard Piqué, Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fàbregas, Cristian Tello and David Villa replaced Marc Bartra, Alex Song, Andrés Iniesta, Alexis Sanchez and Pedro Rodriguez. With a little more firepower on the field and a stronger defense, Barca were clear favourites against struggling Real Mallorca; would they be able to emphasis their superiority on the pitch?

Barcelona started sloppily as Dani Alves gave the ball away in under a minute, forcing Gerard Piqué into a difficult covering challenge. However, Geri timed his sliding tackle to perfection and no damage was done. From that point onwards, Barcelona settled into possession, but just like Wednesday night a wall of defenders blocked their path to goal. Working the ball from side to side, Barca tried in vain to find an opening in the first quarter of the match but those chances were few and far between. Cristian Tello was looking dangerous down the left-hand side; although for all of the Catalan’s possession, the first real chance of the match fell to Mallorca.

The hosts had defended valiantly for the opening 15 minutes, pressing the Barcelona attack when necessary and when they got an opportunity to surge forward, they took it. Ximo Navarro’s tenacity down the right-hand side won possession for Caparros’ side and Tomer Hemed reacted magnificently to reach Ximo’s cross after escaping his marker. Unfortunately, the Israeli international couldn’t keep his shot down and one of Mallorca’s best chances of the half went begging.

Barcelona were far from their best in these early exchanges, but it was clear that their undefeated record was under no real threat either. Unlike Celtic, Mallorca were struggling to make an impact on the counter-attack, especially with Piqué and Busquets back in the Blaugrana XI. So, when Marti gave away a free-kick on 27 minutes and Barcelona got their breakthrough, you knew the game was all but over. The free-kick was in an excellent position – just left of centre, roughly 20-25 yards from goal – and Xavi capitalised by curling the ball up and over the wall and into the top corner of Dudu Aouate’s goal. It was a fabulous strike and Xavi’s fourth of the season. Now with a goal advantage, Barcelona were firmly in control.

Saying that, Barca were made to work by their hosts who were not going to go down without a fight. Even after Xavi’s goal, they stuck with the same tactics that had frustrated the Blaugrana, but all their hard work was undone just before half-time as a few moments of madness cost them dear. Their first mistake was allowing Lionel Messi space to dribble as three or more Mallorca defenders just watched as the Argentine advanced on their penalty area and fired a shot at goal. Aided by a horrific mistake from Aouate, Messi’s shot doubled Barcelona’s lead and Cristian Tello compounded Mallorca’s misery by adding a third before half-time.

Tello had been threatening all half and cutting in from the left-hand side, the winger was given all the time and space in the world to pick his place, curling a right-footed shot into the far corner of Aouate’s goal. Heading into the break, Barcelona were ahead by three and coasting their way to victory.

Joaquin Caparros made one change at the break, replacing his top-scorer Tomer Hemed with Alfaro, which – on paper – was an odd substitution. Hemed had two decent chances in the first-half and failed to convert either, but was one of Mallorca’s best offensive players. However, there could be no arguing with the results. Alfaro immediately made an impact, firing off a half-volley on the turn, but the Spaniard couldn’t get his shot on target. Maybe it wasn’t Alfaro who Caparros was desperate to get involved though, maybe the change was designed to give Victor a little more freedom? Well, it certainly appeared that way as Victor swung in a good cross from the right-hand side to find Michael Pereira unmarked at the far-post and the Frenchman made no mistake with his finish, thumping the ball past Valdés to reduce the deficit.

Now the gap was down to two goals – surely Barcelona were still in control of this match? Wrong, Mallorca were on the front foot and they made Barcelona pay. Again, Victor was involved in the thick of it, winning a free-kick on the left-hand side that led to a penalty being called against Sergio Busquets. Victor was responsible for winning the penalty too, forcing Busquets into a difficult situation where he chose to handle the ball, and Victor, not leaving anything to chance, stepped up to convert the spot-kick. Barcelona’s three-goal lead was now all but gone; could they hold on?

Mallorca were certainly feeling confident, but Tito Vilanova had an ace up his sleeve, replacing David Villa with Alexis Sanchez. El Guaje had struggled to make an impact in his time on the field, but the out-of-form Chilean had no such problems. With Dani Alves now able to retreat to his usual position at right-back, Barcelona were a little more balanced and the swap immediately paid dividends as Alexis Sanchez cushioned Alves’ cross back to Lionel Messi with a delightful chest pass. No-one closed the Argentine down so Messi unleashed a venomous shot into the back of the net with his left-foot, restoring Barcelona’s two-goal lead. It was La Pulga’s 76th goal of the calendar year, which surpasses Pele’s 75 goal haul of 1958 and moves him one goal closer to Gerd Muller’s 85 goal record.

Leo came close to completing his hat-trick in the final five minutes of the match after more great work from Alexis Sanchez, who may be struggling to score goals, but as a result has been a far better "team player" in recent appearances. Both Marc Bartra and Martin Montoya were also given late cameos by Vilanova – with Montoya replacing Jordi Alba at left-back – and Barcelona played out the final minutes to secure a valuable three points. Next up, the Blaugrana entertain Real Zaragoza but until then, Visca el Barca!

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