Bouncing back from Wednesday's draw with Valencia, FC Barcelona put on a master-class to defeat Atletico Madrid 5-0, with Lionel Messi bagging a hat-trick. Despite the lack of defenders and Real Madrid's earlier win, Barcelona were unplayable, and in truth, could have had much more. As it stands, FC Barcelona move on up to second place.
If you live by the sword, you die by the sword. That was applicable to Barcelona on Wednesday in the match at the Mestalla, but tonight the world witnessed yet another master-class. Starting out with a 3-4-3 formation, one could be forgiven for feeling a little anxious, especially when both Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique were on the bench.
Though it’s almost as if the team knew that us Culés were feeling on edge, and started ferociously. Sergio Busquets glanced a header wide from a corner kick, and while Tiago hit the bar for Atletico, the Blaugrana remained calm, and kept on going about their business. Unfortunately for Los Rojiblancos, Barca’s business was to destroy them.
Xavi Hernandez played a delightfully weighted diagonal ball over the top of Perea, and David Villa chested it down before cutting inside a defender and firing into the bottom corner. Was FC Barcelona as anxious as its fans? Well, Villa certainly was not.
One calm composed finish, and we all breathed a sigh of relief; now the team could press on and look for the next goal. Xavi tried another diagonal pass, this time to Pedro, but on-loan keeper Courtois closed down the angle brilliantly and forced a poor shot from the Spaniard.
Though not even he could not do anything about the next goal.
Lionel Messi was in an offside position, and when the ball was played his way, he dummied it for Pedro. This meant he was not interefering in play, and despite the pleas of Atletico Madrid; was not offside. So when Pedro was tackled, the ball fell his way, and while his shot was saved by Courtois, the rebound hit Miranda and went in. A carbon copy of the goal last week against Osasuna, Barcelona were 2-0 up.
The midfield was getting back in support of the defense, and intricate patterns were being weaved on the offensive side: this was the 3-4-3 at its scintillating best.
The next goal came from an unlikely source: a throw-in taken by Messi, and after playing a one-two with Pedro, he slalomed past one challenge, swivelled his hips and left two more players for dead, and despite the pressure, smashed it in at the near post.
All too easy, and when Cesc Fabregas hit the bar from an audacious 30-yard chip, one couldn’t help but smile. It was simply brilliant.
Atletico Madrid made two changes at the half, and instantly threatened, flashing a ball across the six yard box, but after that, it was all Barca. Thiago was the first to have a shot in the second half, dropping a shoulder and flashing a shot wide, and then Cesc Fabregas, who was pretty quiet today, threaded through Messi, but uncharacteristically, the Argentine’s first touch was poor, and he could not get his second.
Gerard Pique made his first league appearance of the season coming on for Sergio Busquets with 35 minutes left, though as expected, he looked a little off the pace, and garnered a booking along the way.
La Pulga created more chances, one for David Villa whose first time shot was saved excellently by Courtois, and then he decided to take on the whole Atletico defense with a mazy run before being fouled by Perea. Messi then sent the resulting free-kick inches wide.
Thiago Alcantara was showing his skill, especially with an audacious nutmeg on Antonio Lopez, and his shot was spilled and cleared only as far as Leo Messi, but his volley was blocked. You couldn’t keep him out forever though...
Again taking on scores of players, he dropped a shoulder, exhibited ridiculous acceleration to escape numerous challenges before firing through the legs of an Atleti defender and into the bottom corner. Simply sublime by the little magician, and more was to come.
It was the 90th minute, but with Cristiano Ronaldo getting a hat-trick earlier in the evening; La Pulga was on a mission. Bouncing a pass off David Villa he again accelerated free before nutmegging Courtois for his third.
That was his 65th goal in 64 games, and his 150th under Pep Guardiola. It also moved him into second place overall in the list of all-time FC Barcelona goalscorers in both La Liga, and all competitions.
The team could have run up a cricket score tonight, it was that good, and if they died by the sword on Wednesday, they didn’t half butcher Atletico Madrid tonight...
Man of the Match is undoubtedly Leo Messi, but kudos to Xavi, who is back to his imperious best, and to David Villa. El Guaje is hitting top form.
Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid 5-0 - All Goals & Highlights
Now onto Wednesday and a trip to Belarus and BATE Borisov.
Visca el Barca!
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