La Liga: Rayo Vallecano 0-7 FC Barcelona: Match Review

Messi and Pedro each assisted the other's brace

FC Barcelona put the disappointment of the last three matches behind them with a comprehensive 7-0 beating over a distinctly average Rayo Vallencano side in Madrid. With Real Madrid victorious earlier in the day, a Barcelona loss would have sealed La Liga for Jose Mourinho’s side, but they were made to wait for another few days at least after a Blaugrana master-class. Lionel Messi opened the scoring with a tap-in at the far post after great work from both Alexis Sanchez and then Pedro, before Alexis forced Rober to turn the ball into his own net to double the Barcelona lead. Seydou Keita added a third just before half-time after jaw-dropping play from none other than Leo Messi and Pedro got himself on the score-sheet just a minute into the second half with a tap-in after Messi’s shot hit the bar. Thiago’s header on 76 minutes gave Barcelona a fifth, before Pedro and Messi each added their second of the evening in the final few minutes of the match. La Liga is all but gone, while the UEFA Champions League may have to wait until next year, but Barcelona’s performance tonight was a healthy reminder that the Catalans are still one of, if not the best team in the world.

Rayo

Barcelona

Possession

26%

74%

Total Shots

10

19

Shots on Target

4

9

Pass Accuracy

60%

88%

Fouls

20

7

Offsides

6

2

Yellow Cards

3

1

Red Cards

0

0

After the demoralising exit to Chelsea in midweek, Pep Guardiola decided to ring the changes, with Jose Manuel Pinto getting a rare start in goal, while Martin Montoya and Adriano took their place on each side of defense. Seydou Keita partnered Thiago in midfield and Pedro returned to the starting line-up after all but sitting out the past three matches. Crucially, Barcelona were back in their usual 4-3-3 and without any real pressure to speak of, they were free to go out on the pitch and enjoy themselves.

The Catalans started slowly, almost certainly due to a hangover of sorts from the past week. Rayo on the other hand were looking bright and claimed for a penalty on four minutes after Sergio Busquets went to ground in the area, but replays showed that Busi got the ball long before he touched his man. Regardless, the referee was unmoved by the Rayo protests and the game continued.

In all honesty, Barcelona’s first real chance also yielded their first goal, with Alexis Sanchez exhibiting some dazzling close control and quick feet to evade the challenge of the Rayo defense and feed the ball to Pedro out on the right-wing. Pedro played the ball back across goal along the six-yard box and on hand to tap home was Lionel Messi for his 64th goal of the season. 16 minutes on the clock, 1-0 Barcelona.

From there on in, Barcelona dominated possession and chance creation, so the only question was not who would win the match, but how many the Blaugrana would score en route to victory. Messi was looking bright after the disappointment of his last three matches and he tried to play Alexis through soon after his opener, but the Chilean was flattened by Rober before he could gain control of the ball. As a result, Rober was booked and Barca wasted the free-kick.

However, if Rober thought that was bad luck, it was about to get a whole lot worse. Messi’s work-rate won back possession for the visitors and the ball was played out wide to Alexis Sanchez who darted clear of the Rayo defense, jinked past the challenge of Cobeno the Rayo keeper and directed an effort goal-wards. It wasn’t going in, until Rober slid in to try and divert the danger and to make matters worse, the young defender also collided with the post and had to be taken off. An own goal, a yellow card and an injury. Not the best 27 minutes in his life I’m sure.

I guess it wasn’t all one-way traffic though as Roberto Trashorras forced a fine save out of Pinto with a free-kick, but for all intents and purposes, it really was as Barcelona piled on the misery with a third goal just ten minutes later. Messi again played his part, dribbling past two or three Rayo defenders before playing the most sublime pass you are likely to see through the legs of another, straight into the path of Keita who calmly slotted home for the third of the evening. Perhaps we should give Keita more credit for his goal, but oh my, what a pass by Leo Messi. Half-time in Madrid, and the champagne had to go back on ice for Los Blancos.

The second half started just as the first ended, with Barca well on top and it was a surprise to see Carles Puyol working hard further up the pitch, at least for the opening minute, but that was all it took. With Puyol winning the ball, Barcelona sprung forward with Messi playing it out wide left for Alexis, who repaid the favour by sliding in a nice delivery for the Argentine, but Messi’s effort rebounded off the bar and fell kindly for Pedro to tap home. It was great to see Pedro back on the score-sheet, but negative Arron can’t help but wonder if Pep made the wrong decision by leaving him out of the starting line-up vs. Madrid and Chelsea...

Lass Bangoura rifled an effort goal-ward that forced a spectacular save from Pinto at the other end, but ultimately, Rayo never really looked like scoring tonight. Instead, it was Barcelona who continued to press ahead in search of a Manita. Ibrahim Afellay was brought on for Sergio Busquets on 71 minutes for his first appearance since that awful knee injury and it was great to see Ibi back on the field.

Dani Alves had also been substituted in by Pep and he was looking good as well, troubling the Rayo defense with an array of crosses, including a lofted effort in the 76th minute which was met by the ghosting run of Thiago Alcantara, and his header gave Barca their fifth. Messi lifted the ball over the Rayo defense for Pedro to finish on 87 minutes before Pedro returned the favour by setting up the Argentine for his second of the evening with a minute left to play. It’s also worth noting that Afellay played a part in that seventh goal as well. All in all, nothing was going to make up for the last three games, but a 7-0 victory never goes amiss. There is no crisis, just a team that looks as good as ever.

Next up is Malaga on Wednesday, while the player ratings will return tomorrow (albeit with me dishing out the numbers). Visca el Barca!

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