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La Liga: FC Barcelona 4-1 UD Almeria: Match Review

A recap of Barcelona's 4-1 La Liga win over lowly UD Almeria at the Camp Nou

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FC Barcelona weren’t quite firing on all cylinders, but did more than enough to see off the threat of UD Almeria on Sunday evening at the Camp Nou, running out 4-1 victors against Francisco’s plucky visitors. Alexis Sánchez got the ball rolling with an early tap-in before Lionel Messi doubled the advantage with a superb free-kick. Almeria cut the lead through Angel Trujillo’s header and were in the match for virtually the rest of the match until Barcelona turned on the style in the final stages, securing a comfortable win courtesy of late goals from club captain Carles Puyol and his deputy, Xavi Hernández.






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Gerardo Martino once again made six changes to his team, although this time there was no question that the changes were likely to be beneficial to the Blaugrana. There were recalls for the likes of Dani Alves, Xavi Hernández and Cesc Fàbregas, while club captain Carles Puyol also returned to the starting line-up in place of the injured Gerard Piqué. Tenacious Argentine central defender Javier Mascherano was his partner with Alexis Sánchez the final change in comparison to last weekend’s disappointing defeat to Real Sociedad.

Barcelona unsurprisingly started the match on the front foot. Penning Almeria back into their defensive third with their unmistakable possession-orientated philosophy, Barça seemed to show no signs of missing suspended head coach Gerardo Martino, carving out a number of clear-cut chances in the opening ten minutes.

For the most part, Dani Alves was our main attacking outlet in those early stages. Rampaging up and down the right-flank, Alves consistently found space at the far post and was routinely given the ball by his colleagues in an attempt to engineer an early opener. It was only the fine reflexes of Almeria goalkeeper Esteban that kept Alves from breaking the deadlock himself – but the visitors couldn’t keep Barcelona at bay for long.

Despite committing players back in bulk, Almeria’s resistance was undone with relative simplicity. Neymar shaped up against his defender on the left, and shifted the ball inside to Cesc Fàbregas. A deft flick of his boot enabled Fàbregas to not only control the incoming pass but also escape his defender and get a shot away on goal – aiming for the far post, Cesc very nearly found his target, only for Esteban to parry the ball clear.

However, it wasn’t quite enough to get the shot to safety; far from it in fact. The deflection was kind, taking the loose ball straight into the path of Alexis Sánchez, who duly tucked away the chance to gift Barça an early lead. It was the Chilean’s 16th goal of the La Liga season, enough to move him back into a tie (with Karim Benzema) for third-place in the race for the Pichichi.

The next ten minutes passed without much to note; Barcelona slipped back into possession, Almeria were content to catch their breath. For them, the next few moments were crucial. Conceding a second goal so soon after the first would be catastrophic, so they did all in their power to stop that from becoming a reality. To their credit, it worked. Neymar was denied from close range before he could even pull the trigger, and Lionel Messi was stopped in his tracks on a trademark run by a cynical shirt-pull from Corona.

I’m sure Corona thought the tactical foul was in both his and his team’s best interests – but he must have forgot about Messi’s prowess at dead ball situations. Stepping up from the best part of 30 yards, Messi picked his spot and found the back of the net, curling a sumptuous effort over and past the wall into the top-corner of the net. 25 minutes had passed at the Camp Nou, and Barça looked like they were going to run riot.

Then our old friend defensive complacency paid an unwelcome visit. A cheaply conceded corner turned into a cheap concession of a far greater kind and all of a sudden, Almeria had hope. Centre-half Angel Trujillo fittingly grabbed the goal; they needed a miracle if they were to overturn this deficit, what better player to start that comeback than an Angel?

For Barcelona, it was a familiar sight. Corner is delivered, defenders go missing, opposing attacker takes full advantage. Fortunately, they remained in the lead thanks to Messi’s free-kick and if anything this could serve as a reminder that nothing comes easy in La Liga. This title race in particular has been a hard-fought battle, every single match is a war and Barcelona need to show the steel and grit to emerge as victors.

Brute force should do the trick – and in a star-studded frontline, they have just that. Neymar and Lionel Messi both went close with venomous efforts just after the half-hour mark before Alexis Sánchez got in on the act by supplying Messi with an intelligent header, only for the four-time Ballon d’Or winner to poke his shot agonisingly wide of the post. Barcelona were getting closer to restoring their two-goal cushion, but Almeria were hanging in there. Even if a three or four goal lead wouldn’t have flattered the hosts given their dominance, Almeria entered the second-half with a chance.

One counter-attack, one favourable decision. One set-piece. All it would take is one moment to steal a point. Could they upset the odds after the interval?

Not initially, no. Barcelona continued in a similar vein, pressing forward in search of a third goal, a goal that would surely have put this match to bed. Xavi’s vision coupled with Neymar’s intelligent movement very nearly created that goal in the opening stages of the half, but Neymar’s low shot was well and comfortably saved by Esteban. Still, it was an encouraging sign for Barça who were hopeful that the goal would materialise sooner rather than later.

However, the tempo wasn’t really there. Barcelona were creating chances, but they weren’t exactly at their peak either. Almeria had a chance, though Francisco was understandably hesitant to commit bodies forward knowing the consequences it might have at the other end of the field. Aleix Vidal’s powerful shot should have served as a signal for Almeria to press on in search of that equaliser, but they continued to settle for the minimum – hanging in with a chance. Why not take a risk? Losing by one, or losing by two; what did it matter?

Neymar was continuing to waste chances for the hosts, slicing a great chance well wide of the mark around the 65 minute mark; who’s to say Barcelona would capitalise if Almeria did leave themselves a little more vulnerable at the back?

Perhaps that just my frustration at Barcelona’s profligacy in front of goal blurring my perception of the game; I thought Barça were maybe there for the taking, but Francisco missed his chance.

Around the 70 minute mark, his team began to tire, both mentally and physically. Pedro replaced Alexis Sánchez and Barcelona continued to gradually up the tempo in the final third. Andrés Iniesta also entered the fray, taking the place of a relatively ineffectual Cesc Fàbregas as Barça stepped up the intensity in search of that third goal.

And who else would get it but...Carles Puyol?

Leading by example, it was the club captain Puyol who grabbed the killer goal after a complete role reversal with Lionel Messi. It was the Argentine who created the chance with a superb header that rattled off the crossbar while Puyol displayed predatory instincts to bury the rebound. Who would have predicted that? Still, a goal is a goal, and this was the one that put this result beyond doubt.

Xavi added the gloss with a sublime fourth, curling a long-range effort into the corner of the net moments before injury-time to emphasis Barcelona’s superiority on the night.

Barcelona had closed the gap on Real Madrid; now they were just a single point behind Los Blancos with more than enough fixtures remaining to make up that deficit. Next up, Barcelona travel to face Real Valladolid but until then, Visca el Barça!

Roll Call Info
Total comments 354
Total commenters 23
Commenter list AL_LM10, Amor n Paz, Anders Thomassen, BarcaLifer, Bostjan Cernensek, FCB4Ever, GasperSM, Harshiv Karia, Inder Methil, JoseM24, Maaz Rehman, NoImagination90, Ricardo Blonde, Shaquille118, Som-i-Serem, ThreePar, Tokjee, Uncharted_Almo, craig00000, david.james, feeya7, ikool, rnmrqz
Story URLs
# Commenter # Comments
1 Bostjan Cernensek 66
2 NoImagination90 42
3 Anders Thomassen 35
4 Harshiv Karia 27
5 Inder Methil 20
6 ThreePar 19
7 FCB4Ever 18
8 Uncharted_Almo 17
9 GasperSM 14
10 feeya7 13

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