UEFA Champions League: FC Barcelona 7-1 Bayer Leverkusen: Player Ratings

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 07: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona (L) celebrates with teammates after scoring his team's third goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match between FC Barcelona and Bayern 04 Leverkusen at Camp Nou on March 7, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. FC Barcelona won 7-1 and Lionel Messi scored 5 goals. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

People say it repeatedly that Barcelona supporters, aka Cules, are very spoiled. If you didn’t agree with this remark, you might be tempted to after watching a game like this one. I watched the entire game without worrying about the possibility of not qualifying. I just sat there and enjoyed it, celebrating each goal as if it were the winning goal in a nerve wrecking penalty shootout. I didn’t know much about Bayer prior to this season’s competition, but I know some great teams who couldn’t get a spot into the last 16, so I’m not going to pay any attention to anyone claiming that they are a weak team, not by a long shot.

I like what our beloved team has just done; they sent a loud message to the rest of the potential quarter finalists, that "we are here to win this, and if you want it, it’s gonna have to be through us". We are an underdog to no one in the quarter final and this win, coupled with the fact that we are the defending champions, makes certain of that. It’s like they say, Barcelona does have off games too, but rarely do they have off games over 180 minutes.

The ratings are after the jump:

Victor Valdes 6.0
Our shot-stopper had little to do for the majority this game. He was mostly an outfield player than he was a keeper; passing the ball and distributing it well. His goalkeeping skills were called into action twice in the game and even though he conceded only once (90th min), it could easily have been twice as Bayer’s attempt on the 53rd min danced across the face of goal after he was beaten (with his defenders) on his near post.

Major highlights: 12 out of 13 passes completed – Conceded a goal

Daniel Alves 6.5
As usual, too many flaws cancelled out by a few moments of brilliance for Dani. Try and forget about the final score-line and just count the number of times he makes a poor pass and you’ll be surprised. I guess the ends justified the means in this case because we can’t complain, but what about in a crucial game, like a final/semi final, losing possession like he did in this game can cost us big time. He made a poor cross on the 14th min which could have set-up Pedro but he didn’t make any mistake on the 62nd min when assisting Tello. His combination play with the rest of the team still makes him one of our most dangerous men in the final third.

Major highlights: Lost too much possession – Brilliant cross to set-up Tello

Still far from his best if you ask me. It might be difficult to tell simply because our opponent didn’t threaten our 18 yard box enough. He lost his marker when we almost conceded on the 53rd min and it’s difficult to try and blame him for the goal we conceded, it was brilliantly executed by our opponents. I can’t help but feel he should have scored with that header off a Xavi free kick on the 23rd min but his effort was equal to that of the keeper. The interception he made on the 26th min stopped a potentially dangerous counter from Bayer. His on-the-ball skills were great as well and his passes and build-up play were on display. Maybe we should not credit people for passing in our team, it’s expected right?

Major highlights: It’s hard this one, the header maybe?

Well we seem to be singing this song week-in and week-out; Masche had a great game (or something similar. He defended well and seemed to communicate well with his teammates. He was the closest to Valdes when we almost conceded in the 53rd min but I don’t think he would have got to the ball should its trajectory have been towards goal. His clearance on the 89th min was incredible; more like a "hey give me that" kind of a thing. Well we are always going to look at our defenders whenever we concede but that Bayer move was ‘cool’, so I guess they are off the hook for now, with your permission of course.

Major highlight: Well the clearance does it for me.

Adriano Correia 6.5 Out 63’

He had a good game by his standards the Brazilian. He linked-up play well on the left, mostly with Iniesta and Fabregas. He was not really tested defensively and he was dangerous in attack, just like his fellow country man in Alves. He unleashed a powerful shot on the 22nd min which was unfortunately blocked, meaning that we can never know if the keeper could have saved it. He was applauded as he left the pitch on the 63rd min to be replaced by Marc Muniesa.

Major Highlight: Well I couldn’t spot any spectacular moment, did you?

Some of you might have forgotten that he was in the pitch for the entire game, that’s because he was sticking to the basics in this one; making the simplest pass and just about the required movement to open up space and receive a pass. He closed passing lanes very well and disrupted potential counter attacks and his usual long range passes were nowhere to be found.

Major Highlight: N/A

Xavi Hernandez 7.0 Out 53’
He had a great game and does not show any symptoms of a loss in form, which might easily surprise most especially for a man of his age. He controlled the midfield, and hence the game, well with his usual quick passing and movement. He sometimes had to drop deeper to collect the ball and help build play from the back. He took three free kicks in succession in the first 23 min, the first on the 6th min might have been wide (or deflected?), the second on the 12th min was just inches wide and Pique could have buried the third on the 23rd but his header was saved. He assisted Messi for the opening goal on the 25th min with a brilliantly weighted pass and the game was already won when he was replaced by Keita on the 53rd min.

Major Highlight: His pass for Messi’s first goal, but it’s expected from him I guess.

Andres Iniesta 7.0 Out 53’
There is this thing he likes to do where he draws the ball closer to the opponent’s feet and before the poor guy knows it he’s gone. Just like Messi’s chip over a keeper, he does it all the time and they never seem to figure him out. He was playing both centrally and wide in this one and defenders surely hoped for a miracle whenever he ran at them with the ball, every attack through him was dangerous. His long (mazy) dribble on the 42nd min before setting up Messi for the second goal was simply jaw dropping; but I don’t think any long time Cule was shocked. He left the field with Midfield Partner Xavi to be replaced by Cristian Tello.

Major Highlight: Well his dribble and assist to set Messi up for number two.

He tried very hard without success to beat Bayer’s offside trap in the early stages of the game. His powerful shot was blocked by Castro from 6 yards off a Messi rebound and he decided to play a little further from goal from there onwards. He probably should have went for goal on the 47th min after being let through by a Messi back heel, but his attempted low cross to Iniesta was cleanly intercepted. He assisted Messi for the 3rd goal and Tello for the 4th. The former Arsenal skipper was very important in this tie and I can gladly accept a performance like this one anytime of the day.

Major Highlight: The shot he didn’t take maybe? Please don’t lose confidence in your shooting boots. His two Assists make his headline of course.

Pedro Rodriguez 6.0
I’m not jealous of Tello but to be honest I felt sorry for Pedro when the younger boy got his goals. He did have a good game away from goal helped by his above average pressing, great one-touch passing and ability to run at defenders with pace. But the thing is most fans expect goals from an attacker; no matter how good a game he has there’ll always be that "Pedro should score" comment floating around. He couldn’t beat two offside traps in two minutes (31st - 33rd min) and his poor control cost him an opportunity on the 41st min. He was unlucky to not have registered an assist on the 78th minute as Keita was just inches away from tapping-in his well taken low cross.

Major Highlight: I say that cross to Keita, other than that I’ve got nothing.

Lionel Messi 10.0 MOTM

I need to celebrate this moment because I might never be lucky enough to live it again. It’s the first time I get an opportunity to give a player a 10 rating and I can defend this number in all the highest courts of the world. He scored five goals the little man; he’s the first to do so in this competition on its current form. He scored his 100th goal in his last 97 official games and equalled his personal record of 12 goals per CL season shared with Van Nilsteroy and there are still at least 2 and at most 5 matches to play, not to mention that he’ll be catching up with Rodriguez’s all time record for goals scored for Barca soon and his season best tally of 53 goals might change to somewhere around the sixties at this rate. Now coming back to the game:

He started the game quietly as he had to spend a full 10 min waiting for his first decent move. He was one on one with Leno who got the best of him and blocked his effort from his near post. After that, he had to wait fifteen more minutes before he could get his first goal (25th min) and he was scoring his fifth on the 84th min. All the goals were brilliantly executed and very few strikers in world of football if any would have converted those chances. He had a ‘Perfect’ game the Argentine maestro as he passed the ball, ran, defended, beat the offside trap and converted 5 out of the 6 chances he had in the game.

Major Highlights: His conversion rate of 5/6 and his last goal are the two highlights for me, yours?

Seydou Keita 6.5 In 53’
He came in for Xavi on the 53rd min mark and he seemed as hungry for a goal as ever. Watch his reaction after he couldn’t touch Pedro’s cross for a tap-in on the 78th min or after his header was over the bar two minutes later (80th min). He was a great substitute in a game which was already won when he came in. More of the same next time Keita, more.

Major Highlight: Unusually desperate to score; observe his facial reaction after each miss.

Cristian Tello 8.0 In 53'

Take Messi out of the equation and this man would easily walk away with the MOTM award. His first touch ended in a goal on the 55th min and got the second less than 10 min later (62nd min). He could have completed his hattrick on the 89th min when his shot was saved after being one on one with the keeper. Two goals on his debut! That’s an impact sub for you, the future looks bright for FC Barcelona.

Major Highlight: He showed great composure especially for his first goal; too much confidence for a man of his age.

Marc Muniesa 6.5 In 63’
He came in for Adriano with roughly 30 minutes to play. He didn’t see too much of the ball to make some of us scream but he was still able to put two of his qualities in display; the first was his ability to defend in the 74th min when he won the ball against a Bayer player who probably took him for granted and the second was his ability to pass as he picked out Tello with a long range pass from deep. I’m looking forward to seeing more of him (and Montoya) in the senior team.

Major Highlight: N/A

Great team selection and great substitutions, especially the decision to withdraw Xavi and Iniesta, their services were no longer required. I credit him also for giving Pedro the start, he needs the minutes; I’m just not sure what it is but there is something in me which feels Pedro is not very far from his scoring best, let’s not rule him out yet. Thanks to him also for not deciding to play Keita as a holding midfielder. Am I the only one who thinks Pep was disappointed a little after we conceded? Chill out Pep we are through, jeez!!!

Team: 8.0

Ah! Ah! I’m not giving the team a 10, it was far from it. Bayer did not pose much of a threat and with the two opportunities they got, they almost scored on the first and they scored on the second. We are more likely to meet a serious opponent in the next round (I hope it’s Madrid) and we’ll need our defence intact. Even if our attackers score fifteen in a match, we’ll still blame the defence for conceding one goal because that’s what their job is; to deny the opposition the opportunity to score. Our keeper made some errors and the defence did too, they need to pull it together and fast. We need this trophy, now more than ever.

We have a great team and we honestly don’t deserve to be nervous and scared whenever the opposition team crosses the halfway line.

I enjoyed watching this game ladies a gentlemen and I was one of the ‘difficult to please’ Cules who were disappointed when we conceded that goal. Don’t forget to jump to our review here in case you missed it.
Next stop - Racing Santander

Barca! Barca! Baaaaaaaaaaarca!

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