La Liga: FC Barcelona 4-0 RCD Espanyol: Match Review

What a player

FC Barcelona made light work of rivals RCD Espanyol in the Catalan derbi, winning 4-0 with Lionel Messi grabbing all the goals in Pep Guardiola’s final home game in charge of the club. It was always going to be emotional, but Lionel Messi’s virtuoso performance ensured that those emotions were sheer unadulterated happiness until the final whistle. Two goals were penalties, and the other two were penalties, and the other two were superb individual efforts, providing Pep Guardiola with a fitting send-off. From the bottom of all of our hearts, Gracies Pep.

Barcelona

Espanyol

Possession

65%

35%

Total Shots

14

10

Shots on Target

6

3

Pass Accuracy

88%

75%

Fouls

13

24

Offsides

5

7

Yellow Cards

4

5

Red Cards

0

0

Pep Guardiola made three changes from the weekend for his final selection at the Camp Nou, with Sergio Busquets, Thiago Alcantara and Martin Montoya coming in for Cesc Fabregas, Isaac Cuenca and Dani Alves respectively.

The game started scrappily with Espanyol making five fouls in the opening five minutes and receiving Juan Forlin a yellow card in the process, however Barcelona continued to play in their usual fashion and started to create chances as early as the tenth minute but Thiago couldn’t quite get enougb power on his header to trouble Alvarez in the Espanyol goal.

Barcelona were not to be denied for long. Espanyol were trying to slow Barcelona’s possession game with fouls, but one foul would cost them dear. With a free-kick right of centre, up stepped Lionel Messi to curl home his 69th goal of the season. It was a spectacular free-kick, all by a player who is considered to struggle from set pieces. In total, that was Leo’s 207th goal in 217 matches under Pep Guardiola.

Joan Verdu came close to equalising minutes afterwards with a free-kick of his own, but couldn’t quite get enough curl on his effort and had to watch it fly agonizingly past the far post. However, Barcelona soon reasserted their dominance. Sergio Busquets was displaying his full repertoire of world-class passes, while Lionel Messi did brilliantly to pick out the run of Seydou Keita with a sublime slide-rule pass, but the Malian couldn’t round the keeper to finish the chance.

Andres Iniesta also forced a great save from Alvarez with a curling free-kick from the edge of the penalty area before Iniesta combined with Pedro to humiliate the Espanyol backline with a series of nutmegs that should have culminated in another goal. Lionel Messi also came close with another free-kick with his final action in the half, but his effort hit the side-netting rather than the back of the net. Half-time in Pep Guardiola’s final home match in charge of FC Barcelona, and it was 1-0.

The second half started like the first half ended – with Andres Iniesta creating havoc. Within the space of a few minutes Andres dragged a shot just wide and had another blocked as Barcelona looked for that second goal. While the intensity of the game had dropped markedly, Barca were still in control and even got a little bit of luck in their search for a second. No doubt there will be some people complaining about the award of the penalty, but what’s done is done, and Leo Messi duly converted with the aid of the post for his 70th goal of the season, and 48th in La Liga. Simply staggering.

Cesc Fabregas replaced Seydou Keita in the first change of the evening for the Blaugrana. Espanyol nearly pulled one back through Manchester City loanee Vladimir Weiss who got the better of the on-rushing challenge of Jose Pinto but his shot was headed off the line by Javier Mascherano. It was unlucky for Weiss, especially because his miss seemed to anger Lionel Messi.

Displaying a world-class first touch, Messi went into overdrive, surging past the challenges of the Espanyol defense and drilled the ball into the far corner of the net. It was another hat-trick – his third consecutive triple in fact, not to mention his record-breaking 14th in a Barca shirt and eighth in this La Liga season. But that wasn’t all, Sergio Busquets won another penalty, with this one a lot more clear-cut and Messi converted again for his fourth of the evening and 50th of the league season. Then, to celebrate that momentous occasion there was no flashing of his thigh, no unveiling of a "Why Always Me?" t-shirt. Not for Lionel Messi, he jogged over and embraced his departing manager.

Gracies Pep.

Staggeringly, Messi nearly got a fifth, bearing down in goal in a similar fashion to his third against Malaga, but this time he couldn’t direct his cute little chip goalwards. To think that everyone was disappointed Messi didn’t get another goal shows just how high he has raised the bar.

While the curtain has fell on Guardiola’s reign at the Camp Nou, Lionel Messi was there to give a timely reminder that life will go on.

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