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La Liga: FC Barcelona 2-1 Real Valladolid: Match Review

A recap of Barcelona's 2-1 La Liga victory over Real Valladolid at the Camp Nou on a rainy Sunday evening at the Camp Nou

David Ramos

Barcelona secured their 30th victory of the La Liga season on Sunday, seeing off the threat of Miroslav Ðukić’s Real Valladolid at the Camp Nou. Pedro Rodriguez put the Blaugrana ahead on 21 minutes, slotting the ball under Jaime after a delightful through ball from Xavi, and Marc Valiente (own goal) doubled Barcelona’s lead with a little under five minutes remaining in the first half. Despite creating a number of chances, Barcelona couldn’t find a third and conceded a late consolation from the penalty spot after Martin Montoya’s foul on Manucho.






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Tito Vilanova made seven changes to the team that defeated Atletico Madrid last weekend at the Vicente Calderon, with Javier Mascherano slotting back into the centre of defense after a six week absence. Sergio Busquets also made his first La Liga in over two months, and was joined in midfield by Xavi and Andrés Iniesta, while Martin Montoya made his tenth La Liga start of the season. Would Barcelona be able to defeat Real Valladolid without Lionel Messi in attack, or would Miroslav Ðukić’s side stun the Camp Nou crowd by securing a share of the spoils?

The La Liga trophy was scheduled to be presented at the end of the proceedings tonight – of course, Barcelona secured the title last weekend, when city rivals Espanyol held Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw – but there was still something to play for, and that’s for each team. Barcelona needed a win to move three points closer to the 100 point mark and provided the Blaugrana defeat Real Valladolid and Malaga, they can also equal another points record – for the best home record in a La Liga season. That record of 55 points was coincidentally set in 2009/10, as Barcelona secured the La Liga title in a season that many deemed disappointing. Sound familiar? All the while Real Valladolid were playing for pride – and for prize money. Given the current state of La Liga, every place and every win can make a difference to a club’s finances – not to mention the psychological boost that a favourable result against Barcelona at the Camp Nou can bring.

But no matter how much a team might want to reach a 100 point target, or how much a team might want to win at the Camp Nou, it isn’t quite the same as fighting for the title, or fighting for survival. In other words, this match had a real "end of season" feel about it. And why not? It’s been a long, arduous season for Barcelona. This was their 58th match of the campaign, there wasn’t really anything on the line – why not slack off, just a little bit anyway? The chances were still going to come – it was simply a question of whether (or perhaps, more appropriately, when) Barça would convert.

David Villa was the first to try his luck, attempting a trademark curler from the left-hand side of the Valladolid penalty area – and he wasn’t far off finding the back of the net either, probably coming closer to a goal than he did last weekend, when his shot was deflected past Courtois by Gabi, gifting Barcelona a 2-1 victory over Copa del Rey winners Atletico Madrid. Nevertheless, it was an encouraging sign for Barcelona and El Guaje, and Martin Montoya followed it up five minutes later with a shot of his own after a marauding run from right-back, but his goal-bound effort was blocked by the Valladolid defense. I’m sure everyone agrees that Montoya should have started a few more matches this season, and he probably wouldn’t have started this match if not for the injuries suffered by both Dani Alves and Adriano Correia, although that doesn’t mean that Montoya hasn’t impressed in the few minutes he has been given this season.

Maybe he is a little more hesistant offensively than Dani Alves, and perhaps he wanders a little too central when he does venture forward, but Montoya is an effective option in attack – and seldom puts a foot wrong at the defensive end. I can certainly understand why Inter Milan are rumoured to be interested in securing his services for next season anyway, although given time, I’m sure Tito Vilanova will gradually begin to incorporate Montoya into the starting XI.

Gerard Piqué was the next Barça player to register a shot, although even after three attempts from various players, Barcelona were yet to force a save from Jaime, the Valladolid goalkeeper. Was Barcelona missing Messi? Was Tito Vilanova right to start with Cesc Fàbregas in the centre of attack? Could the Blaugrana break the deadlock? Thanks to a little help from Jesus Rueda, Barcelona would do just that on the 21st minute, as Pedro slid the ball past Jaime after a superb intervention and through ball from Xavi sent the Spaniard through on goal. It was Xavi’s 10th assist of the season, and Pedro’s sixth goal of what has ultimately been a rather forgetful La Liga campaign for the winger.

Real Valladolid responded by forcing a save out of Victor Valdés, who had barely seen a touch of the ball in the opening stages of the match, although even that was a hopeful effort from Oscar – Valladolid simply couldn’t exert a sustained period of pressure on the Barça defense. Gerard Piqué was performing well, almost certainly aided by the return of Javier Mascherano – and neither Montoya nor Jordi Alba had been threatened on the flanks. Barcelona were in control, and with less than five minutes remaining in the opening period, they doubled their advantage; again thanks to a little help from Real Valladolid.

This time it wasn’t Jesus Rueda, it was his central defensive partner Marc Valiente who had a momentary lapse in concentration, as he unintentionally diverted Xavi’s corner kick into the back of the net. Who says Barcelona can’t threaten from set pieces?

Neither manager made a change at the break, either content or simply acceptant of the night’s proceedings. Barcelona were well on their way to their 30th La Liga victory of the season, while Valladolid needed a miracle to salvage anything from this match at the Camp Nou. And let’s be honest here, there’s not a single player on the Valladolid roster capable of inspiring a miraculous comeback against Barcelona. For Miroslav Ðukić, it was a case of damage limitation – and for Barcelona, the party could begin. The La Liga trophy would be presented to a rather sparse Camp Nou crowd in a little under an hour – the result was secure; why not enjoy the rest of the night?

Instead of playing another pass in the final third, Xavi tried his luck from long-range on the 52nd minute, drawing a fingertip save from Jaime in the process and Pedro could have easily grabbed his second of the night around ten minutes later, but he lost his composure, blazing Barcelona’s best chance of the half over the bar on 63 minutes after nice work from Cesc Fàbregas. The Catalan midfielder had been relatively quiet tonight; maybe the introduction of Thiago would spark Cesc into action?

Replacing Sergio Busquets just moments after Pedro’s wasteful effort, Thiago probably would have preferred a starting role in tonight’s match, rather than a cameo appearance in a comfortable victory. As much as Thiago may have wanted to push the tempo and showcase his talents, it appeared as though both sides had almost settled on the 2-0 score-line. Ðukić made his first change of the night on 68 minutes, replacing Oscar with former Real Madrid youngster Alberto Bueno and Bueno was soon joined in attack by former Manchester United youngster Manucho, who replaced the ineffective Javi Guerra. Jonathan dos Santos was brought on for a rare cameo appearance as well, replacing Andrés Iniesta with less than 15 minutes remaining as Barcelona pushed for their third goal of the evening.

Rather surprisingly, Martin Montoya came close to extending Barcelona’s lead on 80 minutes, but this time the talented right-back was denied by Jaime who was all too happy to concede a corner – and Montoya’s effort was followed up by shots from Cesc Fàbregas, David Villa and Pedro – all of whom could have done better with their chances. In particular, Pedro should have tucked home his second of the evening after Villa’s shot was parried by Jaime, but again, the Spaniard couldn’t direct his shot on target.

So, try as they might, Barcelona couldn’t find their third goal of the evening, while Real Valladolid helped themselves to a late consolation after an error in midfield from Jonathan dos Santos led to Martin Montoya’s rash challenge on Manucho in the Barça penalty area. Victor Perez stepped up, and converted the penalty with aplomb to notch his fourth goal of the season – but it wasn’t enough to threaten the Blaugrana, who moved to within six points of equalling Real Madrid’s 100 point record. Next week, Barcelona travel across town to face Espanyol, but until then, Visca el Barça!

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