BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 10: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona (C) celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Getafe CF at Camp Nou on April 10, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
FC Barcelona heaped the pressure on league leaders Real Madrid with a comfortable 4-0 win over Getafe at the Camp Nou. Now the gap stands at just a single point, with Jose Mourinho’s side set to take on city rivals Atletico tomorrow evening at the Vicente Calderon. Alexis Sanchez opened the scoring for the Blaugrana with a superb curling effort before Lionel Messi doubled that advantage with a thumping shot on the stroke of half-time after a delightful one-two with Andres Iniesta. The second half saw the tempo of the match fall and Barcelona’s possession stats increase even further, but there were few chances until after the hour-mark. However, once Getafe tired, Barcelona took full advantage, added a third through Alexis Sanchez and a fourth courtesy of Pedro Rodriguez. Both goals were headers (!) assisted by Isaac Cuenca and Messi respectively, and heading into the final few games of the season, Barcelona look unstoppable.
Pep Guardiola surprised us all with his team selection, opting for a 3-4-3/3-3-4 up against Getafe’s deep-set 4-5-1, and there was no start for Martin Montoya despite the injury to Dani Alves. The back-three was comprised of Carles Puyol, Javier Mascherano and Adriano Correia, with Sergio Busquets dropping deep when necessary. There were also starts for Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Sanchez and Cuenca as Pep set out his team with one thing in mind: revenge!
As one might expect, Barcelona started well, full of confidence having amassed nine straight La Liga wins heading into the match and pressing high up the field to force Getafe into their own half. The first "chance" of the match came as early as the third minute, when Messi’s cross was headed goalwards by Puyol with the ball actually hitting Moya rather than the Getafe keeper making a save. Sure, Barcelona were forcing Getafe back, but it seemed that Luis Garcia was prepared for that eventuality, setting his team up with a staggered back nine – four defenders and five deep-set midfielders – willing the Blaugrana to attack.
Andres Iniesta gave Getafe a scare when he unleashed an effort from outside the area, with Moya clambering across to parry it wide, although replays showed that Iniesta’s shot was headed wide anyway. The fact that Iniesta has found space and time to shoot must have been worrying, and those worries were compounded minutes later as Iniesta found space once again.
This time the World Cup winner was in possession a little further away from goal, too far away to shoot, but in just the right position to make a nuisance of himself. Driving towards goal, Iniesta drew the defenders in before lifting the ball forward for Lionel Messi. The Argentine controlled it with his chest, directing the ball into the path of Alexis Sanchez, and the Chilean took his time and picked his spot, curling the ball into the far corner of the net past Moya. Barcelona had found the breakthrough; Madrid’s gap was down to a single point.
Pedro came close to doubling the lead soon after, with his shot destined for the corner of the net before Moya scrambled across and clawed it past the post for a corner kick. Then Xavi came closer still, chipping Moya after Messi’s sublime through ball sent him through on goal, but Cata Diaz recovered quick enough to clear it off the line. Xavi thought the ball was over the line, but the assistant referee did not; it’s not like it mattered in the end though.
The 22nd minute brought a heart-warming ovation for Eric Abidal, who is in surgery as we speak, with his cousin donating a piece of his own liver. While the three points is vital for the league campaign, I think I speak for everyone when I say it is secondary compared to Abi’s health.
Barcelona continued to create chances from that point onwards, as Messi was guilty of missing a good chance to extend the lead, volleying wide after a great pass from Sergio Busquets. Getafe did muster a shot on goal after Messi’s miss, with Ruben Perez’ volley deflected inches wide of Valdes’ post, but aside from that, it was still one-way traffic. Isaac Cuenca slide in a perfect cross, only for Alexis to send it into the side netting with his right foot, purely because he wasn’t confident on his left. Hopefully time and experience will cure that particular downside to his game.
Then Barcelona decided to score again.
It was a beautiful team goal, but ultimately, it boiled down to two players – Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta – doing what they do best. For years as children they would be drilled in these values at La Masia: pass and move. Both have won trophies because of that well-drilled philosophy and again they executed it perfectly. Messi fed Iniesta, who back-heeled it into the path of the Argentine, and from there Messi did what Messi does best, finished it with ease and Barcelona had their two-goal cushion at the half-time interval.
The second half started pretty slowly, and took a while to pick up, both in terms of pace and intensity. Both teams knew the result was not in question, and that the scoreline was the only thing likely to change; it really did show. Barcelona probed the Getafe defense, but without any real desire to score, at least until the 70 minute mark. From there onwards, it seemed that Getafe simply run out of steam.
Isaac Cuenca floated a cross into the middle of the area from the right-hand side, and rising above the defense was Alexis Sanchez, heading the ball home for his second of the evening, and a personal best 13th of the season. Getafe’s resistance had once again been broken. However, more than that, their spirits had been crushed as well.
Two minutes later it was 4-0 as Pedro scored a beautiful flick-on thanks to Messi’s cross, and in truth it could have been five or six by the final whistle. Messi was guilty of greed on one occasion as substitute Cristian Tello looked to be in a better position, before Leo went on a mind-boggling run along the byline before hitting the bar with a cute chipped effort.
In terms of the title race, this was a superb win; I just hope we hear of a far greater, far more important victory involving Eric Abidal in the imminent future. Anims Abidal!