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La Liga: Rayo Vallecano 0-5 FC Barcelona: Match Review

Barcelona started slowly, but progressively improved en route to a Manita victory over Rayo Vallecano, with the goals coming courtesy of Lionel Messi (2), David Villa, Xavi Hernandez and Cesc Fabregas.

Leo ponders why there are no images from tonight's match (at the time of publish)...
Leo ponders why there are no images from tonight's match (at the time of publish)...
Jasper Juinen

Barcelona started slowly, but progressively improved en route to a Manita victory over Rayo Vallecano who put up a spirited performance against their league leading opponents. David Villa grabbed the opener on 20 minutes in an otherwise uneventful first half, but Barcelona pulled away after the break as Lionel Messi’s 48th minute strike was followed up by late goals from Xavi Hernández and Cesc Fàbregas, before the Argentine completed the Manita with his second of the evening. The win puts Barcelona three points clear at the top of La Liga, although Atletico Madrid can reduce that deficit tomorrow evening when they entertain Osasuna at the Estadio Vicente Calderon.






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Tito Vilanova made four changes from Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Celtic, with Sergio Busquets, Martin Montoya, Cesc Fàbregas and David Villa all handed starts with Alexis Sanchez, Andrés Iniesta and surprisingly, Marc Bartra all dropping to the bench, while Javier Mascherano sat out through suspension. That meant another makeshift backline for Barcelona, as Sergio Busquets dropped into defense for the first time since last season’s 2-2 draw with AC Milan. Adriano Correia partnered him in the centre of defense, allowing Alex Song to continue at pivote.

As one might expect, Barcelona started the match slowly, frequently giving away possession on the smaller pitch. Rayo were pressing well, forcing the errors to an extent, but this was so uncharacteristic of the Blaugrana. After 15 minutes of the match, the possession stats were at least equal, if not favouring the home side – and as a result, they started as the better side forcing a number of corners, but unfortunately for Paco Jemez, his side were struggling to get their shots on target. Admittedly, the Barcelona defense were the main reason behind that though, as David Villa made one particularly crucial intervention to deny Rayo what could have been an excellent scoring opportunity.

Then with twenty minutes played and against the run of play, Barcelona took the lead. Aided by Chori Dominguez’ mistake in possession, Barca won the ball in the centre of the Rayo half, Cesc Fàbregas took two touches of the ball, glanced up and found the run of David Villa with his third touch. It was an exquisite, defensive-splitting through ball and Villa made no mistake with the chance, slotting the ball past the despairing dive of Ruben at the first time of asking. With less than half an hour on the clock, one could be forgiven for expecting that Barcelona would turn the corner and create more chances from that point onwards – but they didn’t. Cesc Fàbregas fired straight at Ruben around the half-hour mark with what turned out to be the only other chance of a thoroughly unimpressive first half. Surely the second would be an improvement?

Neither side made a change at the break – at least in personnel, but Barcelona came out with a completely different attitude, taking the game to Rayo right from the first whistle – and it didn’t take long for that approach to pay dividends. Pedro was the instigator, jinking away from one Rayo defender before poking the ball down the line for Martin Montoya to chase. Montoya raced to the byline and played an excellent cut-back for Lionel Messi who smashed the ball into the top corner of Ruben’s goal to double Barcelona’s lead. It was Messi’s twelfth league goal of the season, his sixteenth in all competitions and his 72nd of 2012, moving him just three goals behind the record set by Pele in 1958.

Rayo reacted well to going two goals behind and pressed forward in search of an immediate reply. First Javi Fuego had his low shot parried round the post for a corner kick, then Andrija Delibasic wasted a glorious chance to reduce the deficit, glancing a free header over the bar. Jordi Amat was next to try his hand, letting fly from all of 35 yards, and while his effort was impressive, it didn’t trouble Victor Valdés in the Barcelona goal. Javi Fuego was denied by yet another fine save from Valdés after an intelligent knock-down from Delibasic before Tito made his first substitution of the night – replacing the goal-scorer David Villa with the Chilean, Alexis Sanchez. That, coupled with some substitutions of their own, disrupted the home side’s rhythm and as time progressed, it appeared as though Rayo lost faith – or they lost their fight. Whatever the case, Barcelona started to run away with it.

The third goal was very similar to the second, although this time it was Jordi Alba playing the give-and-go down the left-hand side, and his cut-back was finished by Xavi rather than Lionel Messi. It was a composed finish from the midfield maestro as his third goal of the season gave the Blaugrana a three-goal advantage. That three-goal cushion was soon extended to four as Barcelona emphasised their superior fitness and self-belief with Pedro supplying a beautiful cross from the right-flank to feed Cesc Fàbregas who finished in style with a scissors kick similar in style to Paolo Di Canio’s legendary strike in March 2000. Marc Bartra and Jonathan Dos Santos both joined the action, with Jordi Alba and Xavi both making way for the final few minutes.

However, the scoring was not yet complete as there was still enough time left to play for Lionel Messi to grab his second of the evening and Barcelona’s fifth, as the Argentine rounded the keeper to finish after Cesc’s volleyed pass sent him through on goal. The Manita was complete, and while the scoreline didn’t necessarily reflect the performance, Barcelona deservedly grabbed the three points. Next up is a potentially tricky Copa del Rey trip to Segunda B1 leaders Deportivo Alaves. Visca el Barca!

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