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La Liga: Deportivo La Coruna 0-4 FC Barcelona: Match Review

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A recap of FC Barcelona's comprehensive 4-0 victory against Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday evening at the Riazor, as a hat-trick from Lionel Messi ensured the Blaugrana kept pace with Real Madrid at the top of the La Liga table

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

FC Barcelona continued their fine run of form on Sunday evening at the Riazor, picking up their fourth consecutive win with a comfortable 4-0 victory against Deportivo La Coruna. The win ensures that Barça remain just one point behind Real Madrid in the La Liga standings after Los Blancos claimed a 3-0 win earlier today in the Madrid derby against Getafe CF; but more importantly than the result, it was the performance that will encourage many Culés.

Just like last weekend against Atletico Madrid, Barça were hungry, enthusiastic and utterly dominant; Lionel Messi’s hat-trick will take the headlines, but Barça were inspired by a number of impressive individual performances from Ivan Rakitić, Neymar and even from a somewhat wasteful Luis Suarez. Finally under Luis Enrique, it appears as though everything is falling into place...

Deportivo La Coruna

Barcelona

Possession

31%

69%

Total Shots

6

14

Shots on Target

2

6

Corners

2

4

Fouls

14

7

Offsides

2

4

Yellow Cards

2

2

Red Cards

0

0

Luis Enrique surprised a lot of Culés with his team selection; not so much as a result of changes, but rather because there was a lack thereof. For the first time this season, FC Barcelona’s line-up was unchanged from the previous week – that meant successive starts for the likes of Javier Mascherano, Ivan Rakitić and our fabled attacking triumvirate of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar who were so impressive in last week’s win over Atletico Madrid.

Same team; but would we witness a similar result? After their respective 3-0 and 2-0 wins over Getafe CF and Granada CF, both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid had picked up maximum points from their fixtures this weekend making the result at the Riazor even more important. Barça couldn’t afford to slip up, they needed to travel back to Catalunya with a win otherwise all their hard work from last week would be wasted.

***

Kicking off in their bright orange away strip, it was certainly easy to spot which team was the Blaugrana on Sunday evening at the Riazor. Their bright jersey aside, it was also hard to miss them as they effortlessly slipped into their usual dominance of possession while Deportivo retreated into a defensive shell – one bank of four, backed up by a bank of five midfielders all of whom were willing and able to retreat and assist defensively.

Equally, as soon as Barça misplaced possession or made a mistake, Depor were ready to pounce and burst clear on the counter-attack, although in the infancy of the game at least, the quality of their passing on those potential counters was disappointing to say the least. So too perhaps was the early form shown by Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan has been slow to settle into life at FC Barcelona, but seemed to have turned the corner over the past couple of weeks with strong performances against Elche CF and last week against Atletico Madrid.

However, be that as it may, he still seems to be having trouble getting on the same wavelength as some of his illustrious colleagues. A dazzling individual run from the in-form Neymar saw the Brazilian emasculate not one, not two but three Deportivo defenders before he selflessly cut the ball back to find Suarez in space on the edge of the area. Alas, Suarez thought that a teammate was making a run to his side and so touched the ball on – straight to Depor for the clearance. It was a good chance for Barça to get their first shot on goal, but fear not, we would get plenty more as the game progresses.

Indeed, minutes later we registered our first shot on target and it represented a fantastic chance to open the scoring. Barcelona often don’t get credit for some of their more imaginative set piece routines, but this was a beauty. Up stepped Ivan Rakitić to take the clear and with the majority of players positioned inside the Depor six yard box, the Croatian surprised the hosts with a low corner towards the edge of the area where Lionel Messi was ghosting into space for a shot. Meeting it with his favoured left boot, Messi hit it low and his shot seemed destined for the back of the net, only for Fabricio to deny him with a tremendous save, somehow tipping the ball over the bar.

A wonderful chance, yes – but it wasn’t to matter that Messi "missed" it; moments later he had the ball in the back of the net. Again, it was Ivan Rakitić who was the creator, sending a speculative early cross into the area from a deep position on the right-wing. It was perfectly weighted, and curled just at the right height for Lionel Messi to run on and meet it with a superb powerful header. It was a work of art – the header looped over Fabricio and into the far top corner of the net to give Barça a deserved lead. Worryingly for Deportivo, only 10 minutes were on the clock.

Just as they did last week, FC Barcelona appeared to be motivated, enthused and tactically, they were firing on all cylinders. Unlike previous matches under Luis Enrique, everyone looked like they knew their role and exactly what was required from them to ensure they would claim the three points. The movement off the ball was exceptional and the tempo of the passing was good; individually, there were moments of brilliance as well. From Andrés Iniesta’s quick feet to Neymar’s audacious dribbling and Lionel Messi’s surgical precision, it was clear that FC Barcelona were superior in every single aspect of this match.

In this sense, Deportivo were not alone – reigning champions Atletico Madrid visited the Camp Nou last week and were welcomed by a similar performance. They too, in spite of their quality and discipline were also overmatched en route to a 1-3 defeat. This match seemed destined for a similar scoreline, indeed Barça should have doubled their advantage around the 20 minute mark, only for Suarez to again perplex the fans with a bemusing finish.

His pass into Andrés Iniesta was fine; his run was impeccable and Iniesta’s pass too was perfectly-timed. Suarez as a result, was clean through on goal, one-on-one with the keeper. Lionel Messi was waiting at the far post – a simple pass across and he has a tap-in, yet Suarez goes for goal himself. It’s OK, after all, he scored over 30 league goals last season...he can score a chance for himself, right? Wrong, he dragged it wide and everyone was left scratching their heads. Again.

Still, Barça were winning and in complete control of the match, so we could chalk this one up to be a learning experience for Suarez. Next time, he would surely do better.

On the other hand, just as often as Suarez would mess up offensively, his defensive work was exemplary. His work-rate was an example to the rest of the frontline, encouraging Neymar and Messi to make their own contributions at the opposite end to which they made their name. It was infectious and surely has been playing a huge factor in Barça’s recent good form.

However, without a doubt the main factor in their recent upturn has been the form of Neymar and Lionel Messi. Their partnership and friendship has been well-documented, but now it’s truly staggering to see the understanding they have developed on the field. Their talents are unrivalled; arguably no other player in world football can come close to their natural talent, and their actually together on this Barcelona team. It’s a joy to watch, unless you’re an opposing defender trying to stop them.

Neymar was the creator, skipping past his marker as if they were non-existent, a mere obstacle on his route to the area, and once there, Neymar was selfless once again, cutting it back to find Lionel Messi, who scooped the ball past one challenge, touched the ball over the keeper and into the back of the net. A magical goal from two supremely gifted footballers and even though we were just after the half-hour mark, this was as good as game over.

Minutes later, Messi arguably should have completed his first-half hat-trick; one-on-one with Sidnei, Messi raced past the Brazilian centre-half to create room for a shot on his right foot, but he got too much power on the effort and could only watch as his shot sailed over the crossbar and into the crowd behind the goal.

Then Suarez got involved again. It was another breath-taking play from the Blaugrana. Suarez initiated the counter and passed it out wide to Messi. The Argentine could have taken on his man, but he kept it simple and played it back into the centre to find Rakitić. The Croatian was clearly having an excellent match in the centre of midfield and full of confidence, he lifted the ball over the Deportivo defense with his first touch to find Suarez in space. Again, Suarez was one-on-one with the keeper. Again, there was support, this time in the shape of Neymar.

Option A: Either finish the chance yourself, or, option B: square it to a teammate for a tap-in. Suarez picked the unwritten option C and missed the chance. At least we were 2-0 up, and could afford to laugh off these missed opportunities.

Overall, it was plays like this that typified the first-half. Barcelona were clearly on form, and clearly the better side on the night. Their dominance was being reflected in the scoreline and in the quality of their interplay. Deportivo couldn’t cope, and Barça looked set for another comfortable victory.

***

After a difficult first-half in which they struggled to contain their visitors, Deportivo started the second-half on the front foot working the ball into the Barcelona area for perhaps the first meaningful time in the match. Haris Medujanin had the ball and was up against Javier Mascherano who rather characteristically got physical with the Bosnian – but there wasn’t enough contact to justify Medujanin’s theatrical fall to the turf and the referee duly allowed play to continue. Still, the chance wasn’t dead and Depor tried to get a shot on goal, but their effort was blocked and Barça cleared the danger.

At the other end, Barcelona’s first chance of note of the second-half fell to Luis Suarez, after more intelligent and selfless play from Neymar, but the Uruguayan blazed his shot well over the bar. An embarrassing effort by his standards, but at least he was getting into the right positions. In due course, he might well find his shooting boots again and Barça will start to win by ever more convincing margins. Until then though, it remains a source of frustration for this Culé at least.

Especially when even at 2-0 and with our control of possession, this game could have changed at any given moment. Deportivo weren’t creating many chances but their first effort on goal in the 57th minute forced a fine save from Claudio Bravo; a deflected cross looped up in the air for Juan Dominguez to prod goalwards with his outstretched right boot and Bravo had to be in fine form to react and leap to his left to parry the ball to safety.

Maybe this game wasn’t quite as comfortable as we first thought? Any thoughts we might have had to that effect were soon dispelled in convincing fashion. Winning only their second corner of the match Barça improvised again. This time, Rakitić played it short to Messi, who dropped a shoulder, cut inside the area onto his favoured right boot and with Sergio Busquets providing an option in support, Messi went for goal. Striking the ball with power and precision, Messi arrowed a shot into the far corner of the net, completing his hat-trick in style.

An hour on the clock at the Riazor and Barça were cruising to victory. The only question was: how many would FC Barcelona get? Or, more pertinently perhaps, how many would Lionel Messi get?

Minutes after claiming his hat-trick, Messi was driving towards goal again and this time was abruptly brought down for a free-kick. It was right of centre as we look at it, perfect territory for Messi who duly stepped up and smashed his shot well over. Can’t win ‘em all I guess.

Time for changes: off went Andrés Iniesta and Sergio Busquets with one eye on that Copa del Rey quarter-final first-leg against Atletico Madrid; on came Marc Bartra and Rafinha Alcântara, prompting a tactical switch up in the Barça team. Mascherano would push forward into midfield, Bartra would of course drop back into defense. It was a seamless transition, effortless – just like the rest of Barça’s performance tonight.

Soon afterwards, Neymar made way for Pedro – while he didn’t grab a goal, it had been another great display from the Brazilian; would Pedro be able to continue his spell of good form with a goal in this cameo appearance?

Naturally, with their three-goal cushion and absurd dominance, Barça eased off a little in the closing stages, conserving energy for their tie against Atletico Madrid. Still, even as they were playing at half-speed, they were still far too good for Depor and still creating chances to boot. A volley from Messi was blocked, while a couple of good challenges kept other Barça stars from adding to the scoreline. Alas, the fourth goal was inevitable and eventually, Barça got it – well, Depor actually got it as Dani Alves’ low cross was cleared into Sidnei and the rebound ricocheted into the back of the net.

It was an unlucky goal, probably one that Depor didn’t deserve to concede. Sure, Barcelona had easily been four goals better, but not as a result of Depor’s incompetence, rather because of Barça’s world-class play.

With any luck, Barça’s impressive form will continue in midweek when they host Atletico Madrid for the second time in ten days, but until then, Visca el Barça!

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4 Delano Heerkens 40
5 FCBMo 36
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7 Anders Thomassen 33
8 Abohabiba 31
9 Willis1984 27
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11 tilak 20
12 Prcho 17
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17 Abdul95 13
18 Daxterflames 12
19 luck-ycoltsfan19 9
20 AraibKarim 8
21 Uncharted_Almo 8
22 Anirudh_Kul 6
23 Lapulga 6
24 PG9 6
25 hobo_barca 4
26 Sebanovic 4
27 Youssefyasser 4
28 The Art of Boxing 3
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30 FCB4Lyfe 3
31 chamouco 2
32 AzBlaug 2
33 JonStephens0905 2
34 JoseM14 2
35 Antonio Moreira 2
36 ebieymjunior 2
37 Pranav Balakrishnan 2
38 Tokjee 2
39 0nk0 1
40 Sarthak Kumar 1
41 dinoFCBarca 1
42 InstagramDictatorDracula 1
43 Steven Cordero 1
44 hdp78 1
45 magnithor 1
46 oddsbodiSkins 1