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Raja Club Athletic 0 - 8 FC Barcelona: Match Review

Messi picked up where he left off.
Messi picked up where he left off.

The second friendly brought much more excitement and, more importantly, much more goals than the first one. A hat-trick by Lionel Messi, a brace by Alexis Sanchez and solitary goals by Dani Alves, Sergi Gomez and Gerard Deulofeu assured Barcelona would remain unbeaten in the preseason.

Raja Club Athletic





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Once again there were no major surprises (just one small one) in Tito Vilanova's lineup as all nine first team players that traveled to Morocco started the game. As expected they were joined in midfield by Sergi Roberto and, surprisingly, by Rafinha who joined Roberto in midfield - a position Rafinha played rarely last season.

Immediately after the opening kickoff the game had a high pace with Barcelona controlling the ball (78% possession after eight minutes). The inclusion of Messi to Barça's lineup was clearly noticeable as he quickly created extra space for his teammates. He and Ibrahim Afellay especially appeared to be on the same page in the early stages of the game, though Alexis Sanchez soon decided to join the party.

From the very first minute it appeared as if it was just a matter of time before Barça score and indeed it didn't take long for Blaugrana to take the lead. In the 14th minute the trio of Messi, Alves and Alexis completely outplayed Raja's defense (they did get some help from Lady Luck) and Alexis was left with a simple finish into the wide open net thanks to Alves' unselfish final pass.

Soon Messi and Afellay linked up again but Ibi's attempt to set up the wide open Alexis failed as his pass was behind the Chilean.

Raja, however, didn't just sit back and try limit the damage but they went on the attack on every opportunity they got. Marc Bartra and Javier Mascherano were often left alone defending counter-attacks but there was a noticeable improvement in defending, especially by the youngster. Near the half hour mark Raja even appeared to be the more dangerous opponent, but that being said, they failed to create any noteworthy opportunities.

That just appeared to anger Barça as a quick counter later Messi made it 2-0. The counter starter with Bartra again taking the ball from the opposing attacker and finished with a lovely pass by Afellay to Messi who powered it to the back of the net.

There was also an injury scare just seconds later (is it too much to ask for a Barça game with no injury scares?) as Jose Pinto went for the ball and kneed Javier Mascherano in the ribs. Mascherano needed a few moments to gather his thoughts but he was, thankfully, able to continue.

Just minutes later this game turned into a rout, and Mess and Alexis were the key players. First a bad turnover by Raja's defense resulted in Alexis setting up Messi for his second and soon after Messi played trough Afellay whose shot was saved but Alexis was there to slot in the rebound to make it 4-0.

Barça completed the Manita in the dying seconds of the first half as Messi played another brilliant through pass this time to Alexis who couldn't score because of a very good intervention by the keeper. However, the ball fell back to the Chilean who could have fired into the (almost) empty net but instead he decided to pass across to Messi who was left with a simple tap in to complete the hat-trick.

Halftime, unlike in the first preseason friendly, brought no changes in Barcelona's eleven. Messi and Afellay needed only three minutes to combine for another clear cut scoring chance but Afellay again failed to beat the goalkeeper. Afellay had a great game, don't get me wrong, but it would've be nice if he converted some of his chances.

A Barcelona game just wouldn't be a real Barcelona game without an outrageous lob by Messi. He attempted a couple in this game but one was stopped by the bar (and a whistle by the referee) while the other lacked the "Messi touch" and was saved by the keeper.

Twelve minutes after the restart Rafinha played a brilliant though pass to Alexis who was brought down in the box for a penalty. To the surprise of many Alves stepped up to take it. Has stayed true to his mentality and powered a shot on goal, a shot he buried under the crossbar to make it a half-dozen.

Just after the one hour mark Tito decided to make five substitutions as Messi, Alexis, Adriano Correia, Rafinha and Jonathan Dos Santos came off and were replaced by Deulofeu, Javier Espinosa, Carles Planas, Kiko Femenia and Luis Gustavo. Eight minutes later five more substitutions were made. Mascherano, Bartra, Afellay, Alves and Sergi Roberto came off while Patric, Cristian Lobato, Ivan Balliu, Sergi Gomez and David Lomban came on.

Just after the subs were completed Pinto was forced to make save and had to pounce on the loose ball. While in the process of dropping on the ball he was clipped on the fingers by the opposing players' foot and needed some medical assistance. He was able to stay in the game.

The pace of the game slowed drastically after the substitutions were made but there were still some moments of excitement, especially when Deulofeu had the ball at his feet. Balliu, Lobato and Espinosa also had their moments where they showcased their potential.

However the most impressive off all the substitutes to me was Sergi Gomez who fired a 30-yard missile that despite "being saved" found the back of the net. That was a shot Alves would be proud off. Deulofeu also decided to join in on the goalscoring parade with a goal of his own to make it the final score of 8-0.

Old school Man of the Match vote today.

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