FC Barcelona produced a world-class display to see off the challenge of Villarreal CF 5-0. Goals from Lionel Messi (2), Cesc Fabregas, Alexis Sanchez and Thiago Alcantara completing the Manita, and sending Barcelona to second in the table. What a performance, by a world-class team.
The starting line-up had us all guessing. 4-3-3? 3-4-3? 3-3-1-3? The questions going round in every culés head: Would it work?
Settling into the usual possession game early, it became clear that FC Barcelona were on a throwback to the Cruyff era, playing either 1-3-3-3 or 3-1-3-3 depending on personal opinion. Alexis Sanchez, surprise starter in this formation had an early shot deflected, and Andres Iniesta also had a shot blocked for a corner.
The pressure was unyielding, asphyxiating the Villarreal XI into mistake after mistake, it was frightening. Lionel Messi was pulling the strings, playing pass after pass, but his shot on 16 minutes forced Diego Lopez into a fine save at the near post. Sergio Busquets rattled the bar from the resulting corner, it was only a matter of time. Villarreal could not get a foothold.
It was 25 minutes until Barca got the goal, but it was worth the wait. Thiago running at the Villarreal defense, who were oddly hesitant to attempt a tackle, and they were made to pay, as the youngster fired the ball in between them all, into the bottom corner.
Villarreal nearly responded instantly through Giuseppe Rossi, but the Italian could only hit the side netting from just outside the box. He also forced Victor Valdes into a world-class save later on in the half, though was offside at the time.
It looked to be a single goal lead heading into the break, but Cesc Fabregas made a run, and Lionel Messi picked him out with a sumptuous reverse through ball, and Cesc rounded the keeper before tapping home.
With a two-goal lead at the break, Barcelona looked happy. Villarreal looked shell-shocked.
It was about to get a whole lot worse...
Straight from the kick-off, Barcelona were back dominating, and Thiago lifted the ball over the Villarreal defense and Sanchez raced through on goal, making no mistake with his finish, the Blaugrana were 3-0 up.
It was unbelievable, scary, just plain magnificent, and Fabregas linked up with Iniesta, who threaded through to Messi, and it was 4. Just like that, 51 minutes on the clock, Barcelona were 4-0 up on Villarreal.
Possession stats varied, but it was between 70 and 80%, against a team regarded as the second best in Spain (read: world) at keeping possession. Stepping off the gas, Barcelona passed the ball around, but even then, it was not over.
Messi and Thiago combined again, and Thiago played a ball across the six-yard line, and Messi finished with ease. The Manita was complete.
Let that sink in for a while...
Barcelona Vs Villarreal 5-0 - All Goals & Highlights - Barcelona 5-0 Villarreal - 29-08-2011
FC Barcelona win 5-0 against the fourth-best team in the division, WITHOUT Xavi, Puyol, Pique, Alves, Adriano and Villa starting. Ominous signs for La Liga, but rest assured, the Yellow Submarine will bounce back from this defeat better than ever.
Barcelona will just keep on trucking.
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