La Liga: FC Barcelona 4-1 Malaga CF: Match Review

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 02: Carles Puyol of FC Barcelona celebrates with his teammate Andres Iniesta after scoring the opening goal during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Malaga CF at Camp Nou Stadium on May 2, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

FC Barcelona strolled to a comfortable 4-1 victory over UEFA Champions League hopefuls Malaga at the Camp Nou in Pep Guardiola’s penultimate home game in charge. Carles Puyol put the hosts ahead on 14 minutes from Andres Iniesta’s low cross before the visitors equalised through Jose Rondon’s diving header. However, Barcelona were dominating the play and retook the lead with ten minutes left to play in the first half thanks to a Lionel Messi penalty after Iniesta was felled in the area by a clumsy challenge from Jesus Gamez. Barcelona added to that lead just before the hour mark, with that goal also coming courtesy of a Leo Messi penalty. To complete his hat-trick Messi lifted the ball over Carlos Kameni with Andres Iniesta again contributing the assist. While the result will not change an awful lot in terms of the league title, it will mean that Real Madrid need a win at San Mames to clinch La Liga early and Lionel Messi is now on 46 league goals for the season and 68 overall, thus breaking the all-time record for goals in a season set by Gerd Muller in the 1972/73 season.

Barcelona

Malaga

Possession

66%

34%

Total Shots

11

11

Shots on Target

6

3

Pass Accuracy

89%

78%

Fouls

17

14

Offsides

5

4

Yellow Cards

2

2

Red Cards

0

0

Pep Guardiola made four changes from the side that destroyed Rayo Vallecano 7-0, with Thiago, Alexis Sanchez, Sergio Busquets and Martin Montoya being replaced by Cesc Fabregas, Isaac Cuenca, Andres Iniesta and Dani Alves respectively. Clearly Pep had one eye on his final home game in charge against Espanyol, but nevertheless, this was a team that was strong enough to beat most teams in world football.

Alves was the first to test Kameni in the Malaga goal firing in a hopeful, yet powerful shot from the right wing that was saved pretty comfortably. Then, just a minute later we nearly had our first goal as Martin Demichelis diverted a Barcelona pass goalwards, but Kameni pounced on the loose ball before it could do any damage.

Barcelona had started slowly both in terms of offensive tempo and defensive work-rate, and Cesc Fabregas dived in and made a poor tackle to give Malaga their first chance of the game. The free-kick was left of centre and looked to be in a perfect position for set-piece specialist Santi Cazorla, but the ex-Villarreal man left it for Duda and the Portuguese winger struck it left-footed off the far post. However, Malaga would be made to rue that missed chance just seconds later.

After Cesc Fabregas forced a corner with an effort at goal, Lionel Messi went across and took it short to Iniesta, who returned the ball to the Argentine. Leo looked as though he was going to dribble across the edge of the penalty area and open up the angle for a shot at goal, but instead played a reverse through ball through the eye of a needle back to Iniesta. From there, Iniesta put the ball into the box with a low cross and on hand to finish was "El Capitan" Carles Puyol. It was his fifth of the season and Barcelona’s 105th, matching the tally set in the sextuple winning 2008/09 season.

Barcelona looked as though they were set to dominate the remainder of the proceedings after that goal, settling into their usual possession game and creating chances here and there, with Adriano’s long-shot requiring a fine save from ex-Espanyol keeper Carlos Kameni. However, in the first real spell of pressure since the breakthrough, Malaga got themselves an eqauliser.

Portillo did well to hold the ball up on the right flank before laying the ball off to Jesus Gamez who swung the ball into the area. Initially, it looked as though Barcelona had it covered, but Rondon muscled his way into the equation and met the cross with a superb diving header that just escaped the reach of Jose Pinto. It was a disappointing goal to concede, but I would like to hope that we can put it down to the lack of pressure rather than a defensive error as such.

The goal didn’t change the flow of the game as Barcelona continued to dominate possession, but they were lacking that cohesive team effort, instead relying upon the individual skill of some players. That said, it worked out pretty well for the Catalans. Andres Iniesta received possession in Malaga’s defensive third and decided to go on a little mazy run, skipping past a couple of challenges before being tripped by Jesus Gamez in the area. Referee Javier Turienzo Alvarez pointed to the spot and Messi stepped up to convert his 66th (!!??!) goal of the season, leaving him just one behind the record set by Gerd Muller. It was also Barcelona’s 106th of the season, setting a new club record for La Liga goals in a season and leaving them just one behind the old Liga record set by John Toshack’s Real Madrid back in the 1989/90 season.

Malaga had the final chance of the half after Pinto made a feeble attempt to clear a cross, as Duda fired at shot at goal only for Cesc to block what could have been a second equaliser. It wasn’t a terrible game – far from it – but it certainly had an end of season feel about it. At half-time it was FC Barcelona 2-1 Malaga CF.

The second half started much like the first, with Barcelona in control and within 15 minutes of the restart, Messi has drawn two yellow cards, the first after a cynical challenge from Ignacio Camacho and the second not only brought a yellow card for Duda, but another penalty. The Portuguese winger tangled with the Argentine in the area, albeit unintentionally and the referee again pointed to the spot. This time Messi struck it firmly into the top corner to equal the record set by Gerd Muller way back when. Quite simply, what a player.

Malaga nearly pulled one back nigh-on instantly as Jesus Gamez again delivered a sublime cross for substitute Ruud Van Nistelrooy, but the ex-Galactico couldn’t get his body over the effort and it sailed well over the bar. But never fear, Leo Messi showed him the way by completing his hat-trick on the 64th minute. Andres Iniesta was the architect, supplying a delightful through ball and Messi galloped down on goal, lifted the ball over Kameni and duly scored his 68th goal of the season to break the record set by Gerd Muller and to surpass Toshack’s old record for goals in a season.

That fourth goal was the cue for Guardiola to start making the changes as Carles Puyol went off to a standing ovation from the Camp Nou crowd to be replaced by young Marc Bartra. Also taken off was Andres Iniesta who also received a standing ovation as he was replaced by Ibrahim Afellay. Notably, Lionel Messi was given the captain’s armband as Iniesta left the field, which in itself is a feel-good sight. The final change saw Cristian Tello make a cameo appearance, replacing Pedro with a little over five minutes to play.

Van Nistelrooy nearly pulled one back for Malaga as the game died down with a fantastic stretching volley, but Pinto acrobatically denied the Dutchman the consolation. It was the second time in the season that Barcelona beat Malaga 4-1, and the second time this season that Messi scored a hat-trick against Malaga in La Liga. Next up is the Catalan Derby. Visca el Barca!

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