FC Barcelona strolled to a 5-0 win against Real Mallorca in the evening kick-off at the Camp Nou. Despite the absence of Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez the Blaugrana were in complete control, and had an early hat-trick from Lionel Messi to thank. The Argentine shrugged off the criticism to dispatch a penalty and two great finishes, before Isaac Cuenca rounded Dudu Aouate to score one of his own. The misery was compounded for Mallorca when Dani Alves smashed in from 25 yards out in added time.
Barcelona started the game without a whole host of first-team players including Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas, with Xavi not even making the bench. After the past couple of performances, you could be excused for feeling a little nervous ahead of kick-off. However, the Blaugrana must have sensed this, and started well.
Sending in an early cross, Seydou Keita stooped to reach the ball with a fine header, and Dudu Aouate spilt it without consequence. Dani Alves then attempted a shot from long-range, but that was deflected for a corner kick. Mallorca were having trouble getting out of their own half, though when they did, they nearly took the lead.
Joao Victor had the chance to break the deadlock, meeting a low cross on the run, but he couldn’t direct his attempt on target and the ball went out for a goal kick. It was a let-off for the Blaugrana.
Barcelona were threatening again, and after a ball over the top to Adriano, they had a penalty. As the Brazilian tried to head the ball back to the edge of the area Joao Victor raised his hand by his head, and the referee had an easy decision. It was ball to hand, but when the hand is raised the letter of the law indicates that it is a penalty.
Up stepped Lionel Messi, and this time round he made no mistake, placing it into the top-right corner. Without Kanoute on the pitch and Javi Varas in goal the Argentine is a little better at penalties!
David Villa had a chance one-on-one with Aouate soon after, but he hesitated by looking across goal and sent his shot straight at the Israeli keeper. While Villa was having a tough time, young Isaac Cuenca was coming of age. After numerous good runs and crosses, he had his reward. This time he decided to loop the ball to the back post from the right-hand side, and Adriano met it with a volley. Whether he meant to cross it, or just sliced his shot, it fell to Lionel Messi, and La Pulga tapped it into the empty net.
Would Messi stop there? Not in a million years. This time it was Dani Alves who provided the goods with a superb diagonal pass over the top of the Mallorca defense to Messi who cushioned the ball home. A quick-fire hat-trick from Lionel Messi, guess he doesn’t need a rest after all...
Barca nearly found a fourth with Cuenca providing again, but this time his cross caused Aouate to make a mistake, and Adriano’s volley was blocked on the goal-line by Chico who had collided with his keeper. Amazing stuff, though with a hint of fortune for Mallorca.
One half down; three goals for Barcelona and Lionel Messi. Crisis? What crisis?
Pep Guardiola opted to make one change at the half-time break, replacing Eric Abidal with Gerard Pique, presumably so the returning Spaniard can get some much needed match practice ahead of the demanding trip to San Mames to face Athletic Bilbao.
Just four minutes into the second half though, and Barcelona had another. Yet again Adriano was the architect this time it was a straight-forward through ball to meet the run of Isaac Cuenca, and the young winger took his time to round Aouate and pass it into the empty net. If he keeps this up, he could well be challenging for a regular first-team spot sooner rather than later.
Next real event saw Carles Puyol replace Sergio Busquets, and it was refreshing to see both Puyol and Pique sharing the pitch after all this time. Whether this is for good remains to be seen, but a good half an hour or so for them to get reacquainted. This entailed a switch to 4-3-3 with Mascherano moving to defensive midfield.
Five minutes later saw another change, and this one should be marked down for the history books. 17 year-old Gerard Deulofeu replaced David Villa to a rousing ovation, and for those unfamiliar, Deulofeu is regarded as the "Next Messi". High praise indeed and Deulofeu started well, tracking back to aid the defense before forcing a last ditch tackle out of the Mallorca defense. The future is certainly bright for FC Barcelona.
Messi won a free-kick on the 77th minute with a trademark run, and his attempt forced a fine save from Dudu Aouate. The corner was deliberately played to Dani Alves on the edge of the area, and the Brazilian’s volley inadvertently fell to Gerard Pique, but the central defender’s shot was headed off the line by Chico.
Deulofeu again showed glimpses of his talent, with a delightful nutmeg on Joao Victor to force Zuiverloon into a fantastic covering tackle. Messi had a header off target in the 85th minute, but aside from that, Barcelona played the time out well in a fine performance. All that and another clean sheet seemed on the cards. There was time for another goal though...
Lionel Messi was hacked down in added on time, and took the free-kick to Dani Alves after a short delay. The Brazilian had one thing on his mind: to shoot; and boy it was some shot. 25 yards out on the right-hand side he let fly, and the ball dipped to hit the crossbar and cross the line. It completed the Manita, and Barcelona moved top, albeit for a few hours.
Man of the match could be one of a few players, but I will say that Isaac Cuenca deserves it most. He worked hard for the team, making numerous runs down the right-hand side and the crosses he supplied were sublime. Each could have been converted, and in some cases, they led to goals. The finish was simply the icing on the cake for the La Masia graduate. Honourable mentions to Adriano and Lionel Messi though.
Onto the UEFA Champions League and a trip to Prague where Viktoria Plzen await. Visca el Barca!