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La Liga 2010/11: Barcelona narrowly defeat tough opponents Valencia 1-0

Surely that's unfair?!? Levitating the ball!
Surely that's unfair?!? Levitating the ball!

Barcelona extended the gap to 10 points with a win away at the Mestalla against tough opponents, Valencia. Lionel Messi was unusually wasteful in front of goal, up until the 75th minute where he scored the winner after an Adriano cross.

Valencia vs Barcelona 0-1 Highlights And Goals 02-03-2011 HD (via MrHighlights1)

Well. Thank God that’s over for another season. The last 24 hours have been of mixed happiness for the Blaugrana, a win over Valencia was met with euphoria, but news of Pep Guardiola being hospitalised with a herniated disc has somewhat brought the mood down.

Of course we all wish Pep a speedy recovery, but I’m surprised he only left the Mestalla with his back hurting, because after a game like that, my head was hurting, and my nails were thoroughly chewed!

Guardiola opted for a slightly odd formation and line up, with Pedro being rested (presumably) and Busquets in central defence. The line up was unfamiliar, and even the tactics were. Valencia pressed every single Barcelona player with 1, 2 or sometimes even 3 players. This wasn’t just near the goal, but all over the pitch.

Kudos must go to Unai Emery for constructing that plan, and his players for executing it, as they nearly got something from the game.


Valencia started much the better side with 4 corners in 6 minutes, but Barca rode the early storm but still couldn’t settle. With the suffocating pressure that the Valencia players were putting on the Blaugrana (Xavi and Iniesta in particular) there was no room for our standard tiki-taka tactics.

However, 8 minutes in Messi was through after the ball rebounded off a Valencia defender and only the goalkeeper beckoned for La Pulga. I thought goal, as I’m sure many of you Barca fans did, but no. Messi was not his usual self yesterday. He was showing mercy or something, whatever it was; he was not at his imperious best.

Then Messi found himself through again, surely it would be the breakthrough this time. Oh, look Villa has come to join him now; he has 2 ways to score! Get the champagne Pep, its party time…or at least it should have been.

Messi decided that instead of squaring to the waiting Villa, who dearly wanted another goal at the stadium he truly made his name, that he was going to atone for his earlier error and finish it himself. With a chip. I was waiting for it to drop perfectly in, but that time would never come, as the ball nestled on the roof of the net.

Unbelievable. Not only was Messi missing chances, he was being selfish too! Maybe someone should tell him that when he does that he’s just like Ronaldo…

Then Villa had a chance. Maybe he could’ve passed it to Alves, but who cares? He didn’t score, but Messi decided to berate Villa for it. Pot meet kettle. Valencia’s tactics were working. Not only were they still level, but Barcelona were fighting amongst themselves.

Then Valencia got what they thought was the break through. It was ruled offside (correctly in my opinion) and the Catalans breathed a sigh of relief.

Half-time it was 0-0 and Emery must have been optimistic about his team’s chances. Unfortunately for him, Barca weren’t ready to let his team get the point they deserved as the breakthrough came in the 75th minute. The best typical-Barca move yet saw Xavi and Iniesta combine before playing the ball to Adriano who showed great skill to cut inside and find the on-rushing Messi who finally hit the target.

Cue sighs of relief from every Barca fan.

The team had done it. It may not have been the most important depending on your viewpoint, but as the shirt was red and blue, this game was the hardest. The toughest game to date, not just of the season, but perhaps the toughest of Guardiola’s reign. The side were not at their best, but chipped away at a resolute Valencia team, until the goal finally came.

In my opinion it is this run of form that will define us instead of the Manita-handing performances. Against the run of play we can still score, we will still win, no matter how well you play. If I was a Madrista watching this I would give up now. If I was Pele thinking that I was the best player ever, I would admit defeat. Sure Messi was poor up until that point, but he still scored. He still won the game for the team. That is what Champions are made of.

Grinding out victories sure isn’t pretty, but maybe because I am English and accustomed to this sort of thing more, I sometimes enjoy the game more.

More good news, it was after this point in the first half of the season when we reached that Manita-form!

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