UEFA Champions League: Spartak Moscow 0-3 FC Barcelona: Match Review

80 - and still couting - Jasper Juinen

A recap of Barcelona's comfortable 3-0 win over Spartak Moscow at the Luzhniki Stadium, as goals from Lionel Messi (2) and Dani Alves secured the Blaugrana's place in the Round of 16

Barcelona cruised to a comfortable 3-0 win over Unai Emery’s Spartak Moscow at the Luzhniki Stadium on Tuesday, as goals from Lionel Messi (2), and Dani Alves secured the Blaugrana’s place in the Round of 16. Barca adjusted well to their new surroundings and raced into an early lead courtesy of Alves’ accurate volley. Lionel Messi extended his personal goal tally for 2012 to 79 with a straight-forward finish after Andriy Dikan parried Andrés Iniesta’s shot and the Argentine rounded off the scoring by passing into an empty net courtesy of a delightful assist from Pedro.

Spartak Moscow

Barcelona

Possession

29%

71%

Total Shots

9

12

Shots on Target

0

7

Pass Accuracy

79%

91%

Fouls

12

8

Offsides

1

1

Yellow Cards

2

2

Red Cards

0

0

Tito Vilanova fielded a strong line-up – possibly the strongest at his disposal – making four changes to the side that defeated Real Zaragoza 3-1 on Saturday. Sergio Busquets returned from suspension to start at pivote, while Javier Mascherano was immediately restored to the starting XI after sitting out Saturday’s win. Elsewhere, Dani Alves was preferred to Martin Montoya at right-back and Cesc Fàbregas started ahead of David Villa in attack. The temperature in Russia was approaching freezing point and the pitch was narrow; would Barcelona still be able to secure their place in the knock-out stages?

Barcelona started well, if a little slowly as they adjusted to both the weather conditions and the artificial pitch at the Luzhniki stadium, although the same could be said of their hosts. Spartak started the match needing a win to really keep their hopes (of progression) alive and yet they started without any real urgency. Surely Spartak needed to start well if they were to have any hope of claiming a win against the Blaugrana?

Barcelona created the first chance of the game around the ten minute mark as Xavi picked out the run of Pedro with an intelligent lobbed through ball. The Spaniard displayed magnificent composure to set up a chance on the volley with a sumptuous piece of chest control, but Andriy Dikan was equal to his effort, parrying Pedro’s powerful shot away for a corner kick. Spartak responded by creating a chance of their own from a corner kick, as a training ground routine culminated in Ari setting up Dmitri Kombarov for a shot on goal, but the Russian full-back couldn’t keep his effort down and the chance was wasted. Then, as always seems to be the case, Spartak were made to rue that miss just minutes later as Barcelona took the lead.

Unai Emery must have thought that his team was coping well with their illustrious visitors, as Spartak managed to stop Lionel Messi from getting his shot away on goal, but in doing so the ball fell kindly to Dani Alves, who opened the scoring with a powerfully-struck volley into the far corner of Dikan’s net. It was a tremendous strike from the Brazilian and considering his recent form it was a welcome surprise as well. 16 minutes in and the Blaugrana were ahead.

Spartak and Marek Suchy in particular had a good chance to level the score as Ari turned creator once again to set up the Czech centre-half with a headed pass, but as expected, the defender couldn’t capitalise on his chance, firing his shot well over the bar. At this point, the match could have gone either way. Spartak were not looking overly threatening, but they were creating decent half-chances and all it would have taken was one lucky break for the Russians to grab an equaliser. However, lady luck certainly wasn’t with Unai Emery and his side.

Just four minutes after Suchy blazed Spartak’s best chance of the night over Valdés’ crossbar, Barcelona scored again, as Lionel Messi doubled the Catalan’s advantage with his 79th goal of the calendar year. Having set up Andrés Iniesta’s initial chance on goal, the Argentine reacted well to reach the ball first after Dikan kept out Iniesta’s side-footed shot, and with an open goal to aim at you knew there was only one outcome. Now with a two goal lead to their name, it was clear that Barcelona were in complete control of the match. How could Spartak recover?

Well, to be completely honest, they couldn’t. Emery’s side was supposed to be playing to win, but it was clear from the first minute that they just didn’t have enough confidence. Their finishing was particularly poor, even their top-scorer in the competition, Emannuel Emenike, was guilty of wasting a rare half-chance as the Nigerian smashed Dmitri Komabrov’s early cross into the stands. And, stop me if you see a pattern emerging, the former Karabukspor striker would be made to regret that miss as Barcelona extended their lead to three goals just moments later.

Unsurprisingly, the goal came courtesy of Lionel Messi, and although the finish itself was rather simple, the move that created the goal was spectacular. First we have the pass from Pedro. Threading the ball through and past an entire defense is difficult enough, especially when the passer must also compensate for the keeper who could rush out to collect the ball if there’s too much weight on the pass, but Pedro made it look embarrassingly easy. Messi still had a lot of work to do as Dikan rushed from goal to try and quell the danger, but the weight on Pedro’s pass was just right and Messi was able to sidestep the Ukrainian keeper and pass the ball into the empty net. Heading into the break, Barcelona had a comfortable 3-0 lead to work with and with Spartak all but out of the game there was only one question left to answer: just how many would Barca end up with?

Neither side made a change at the break, and despite trailing by three goals, Spartak didn’t look as though they were going to play with anymore urgency than they did in the first half. Granted, they had little chance of a comeback but the Europa League spot is still very much up for grabs in the group and it may come down to the team with the best goal difference. Anyway, Cesc Fàbregas came close to adding a fourth, as he cut inside from the left to set up a chance at goal which was well saved by Andriy Dikan. Unai Emery rolled the dice with a couple of substitutions as Welliton replaced Kirill Kombarov while the talented Georgian attacking-midfielder Jano Ananidze was brought on for the ineffective Emenike.

Welliton made an instant impact, albeit in an unusual manner, as he tripped in the area and rolled into Valdés who was brought to the ground, although neither party suffered any lasting damage. Tito made a couple of changes in the final ten minutes as Alex Song and Gerard Deulofeu took the field for short cameos and aside from Javier Mascherano’s late yellow card (after a foul on Welliton), the second-half passed without any real incident. This was supposed to be one of the biggest tests of the group stage and Barcelona passed with flying colours. Next up, Barcelona travel to face Levante on Sunday evening and until then, Visca el Barca!

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