FC Barcelona ended 2014 in exciting fashion, as the Blaugrana dominated Córdoba and won comfortably by 5-0, with goals from Pedro, Piqué, Luis Suárez (his first in La Liga!) and a brace from Lionel Messi. It was an easy win, with no defensive mistakes and solid performances by almost every player, if not all.
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Coach Luis Enrique made a few changes to his usual starting eleven. Jérémy Mathieu was replaced by Javier Mascherano as Gerard Piqué's partner on defense; Martín Montoya started his second straight game in the right-back slot, and Xavi Hernández was benched, with Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and Andrés Iniesta in the midfield. Lucho also decided to put Neymar on the bench, and stick with Pedro Rodríguez's great recent form.
The match could not have started better for Barcelona. Controlling the possession, the Blaugrana were patienly waiting to pass the ball at the right time and try to create a chance. The ball went from left to right, and after a Montoya cross was poorly cleared by Córdoba's defense, Ivan Rakitic made a spectacular left-footed pass to Pedro, who needed two touches to control the ball and put it away from the goalkeeper and into the net. 1-0 Barça and a promising start.
Shortly after, Barça created another chance. A nice long pass by Messi found Iniesta wide open on the other side. Andrés made a nice move, but his shot was weak and easy for Juan Carlos to save.
To end a blitzing ten-minute stretch, Luis Suárez came very close to scoring his first La Liga goal. After a Jordi Alba cross, Suárez made an awkward but effective move to fire a shot that went just outside.
After that, Córdoba definitely parked the bus and put nine men behind the ball, leaving Ghilas alone to take advantage of an eventual passing mistake by Barça's midfield to create a dangerous chance. And that indeed happened in the 18th minute, when Sergio Busquets slept for a second and let the ball go over his head into open space. Ghilas controlled it, dribbled past Mascherano and tried to shoot past Bravo, but his shot was wide.
Then the game turned into a monologue. The usual Barça versus a bus at the Camp Nou began. In pursuit of another goal, the Blaugrana struggled to create real chances, and relied on ineffective lob passes by Messi and Iniesta that never reached Pedro or Suárez. Jordi Alba and Montoya were very active on offense, entering the box as much as possible. Ivan Rakitic was also an important part of the game, and he attempted some outside shots.
In the final ten minutes, Barça increased their intensity and blitzed Córdoba once again. The team was dominant on the left side, and at least three very good chances by Iniesta and Jordi Alba were created, but weren't converted. Suárez and Messi moved a lot but delivered little, and the first half ended a lot less exciting than the hot start suggested. What would the second half bring?
Back from the locker room, Enrique made no changes, and the same starting eleven remained on the pitch. Unlike the first half, Lionel Messi was lively, running all over the place and getting into the box. He had two shots blocked in two minutes, and looked a lot different from his showing in the first 45 minutes.
Iniesta and Pedro, on the other hand, continued to play great, and they were responsible for the second Barça goal. Eight minutes into the period, Andrés found Pedrito with an excellent through ball; Pedro then found Luis Suárez alone in front of the goalkeeper. Suárez showed tremendous composure and nutmegged (is that a word?) the GK to finally score his first La Liga goal.
From then on, the match was pretty much the same as the first half; Córdoba behind the ball and flooding their own box, Barça trying to find some space to do something. It didn't happen, but unlike other matches against weaker opponents, the Blaugrana were never tested, and continued to have control of the game, which seemed over at that point. Luis Enrique decide to make substitutions; Xavi was the first to enter, in place of Rakitic.
And the Maestro showed why he's still great. When it seemed like nothing was going to happen anymore, Xavi delivered a perfect set piece cross to Gerard Piqué, who jumped all over Córdoba's defenders and headed home the third score, Gerard's second La Liga goal this season.
With Pedro and Suárez already on the scoreboard and the game decided, the only thing left to make the day perfect was a Messi goal.
We got it. Them. Two of them.
The first one happened in a corner kick, deflected by a Córdoba defender right into Leo's right foot. A perfect strike for Messi finished the play, and Barça were up 4-0. A few minutes later, a Jordi Alba cross was once again deflected by the defense, and the ball came right into Messi. With a fantastic first touch to control the ball, Leo shot again with his right foot. Juan Carlos got a piece of it, but not enough to avoid the goal.
A manita to cap off 2014. Certainly, the year ends in an exciting way. Now, a two-week holiday break. Barça return to action on January 4th, at the always tough environment of Anoeta Stadium, against the also tough Real Sociedad. But that's only in 2015. This year's Barcelona football has come to a close. In an awesome way.
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