FC Barcelona got closer in its pursuit of winning a title this season, as El Blaugrana defeated Villarreal 3-1 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal Wednesday night at the Camp Nou.
Lionel Messi got the scoring started with four minutes left in the first half, as a mistake by Villarreal's Mateo Musacchio led to Luis Suarez storming toward the goal. Suarez waited until Messi caught up and Luis fed Messi for the opening goal of the night.
RT @MessiStats: Messi puts Barcelona 1-0 up in the 41st minute. Assist by Suarez http://t.co/pqgBaslH3H— Xoel Càrdenas (@XoelCardenas) February 11, 2015
In the second half, Manu Trigueros tied things up, as his long shot at goal went in thanks to a mistake by Marc-Andre ter Stegen. But just one minute later, Andres Iniesta gave Barça back the lead, as he got to a loose ball before the surrounding Villarreal defenders could and made it 2-1.
Iniesta goal RT @videoelbarca: هدف انيستا https://t.co/5G1i4ftyO5— Xoel Càrdenas (@XoelCardenas) February 11, 2015
In the 64th minute, Gerard Pique made it 3-1, as he headed in another goal. The "Piquenbauer" revolution continues, as Mr. Shakira has now scored five goals this season.
#Piquenbauer RT @_SuperGarcia_: Tercero del Barcelona, Piqué https://t.co/aJ2WyWERRA— Xoel Càrdenas (@XoelCardenas) February 11, 2015
A handball on Musacchio inside the box led to a penalty for Barcelona. Neymar—not Messi—stepped up and took the PK and missed. Shocking, but nice save by Sergio Asenjo.
RT @EuKarolyi: Que es esoooo???? Falló el penal Neymar #fail #penalty #neymar https://t.co/ELPLS6wwHg— Xoel Càrdenas (@XoelCardenas) February 11, 2015
Final: FC Barcelona 3-1 Villarreal
Overall, it was a good performance by Barcelona. Sure, it wasn't great, but a 3-1 advantage heading into El Madrigal is a good thing, obviously.
While Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a mistake on the lone Villarreal goal, he did make plenty of good saves throughout the game, including a diving save in first-half stoppage time.
#MAtS RT @messi10stats: Ter Stegen you beast http://t.co/5dl4fJXiDK— Xoel Càrdenas (@XoelCardenas) February 11, 2015
MAtS has been excellent in Copa play, and he will continue to learn from the good and the bad from his first season at Barça to one-day become the team's number one goalkeeper—a position he'll keep for possibly a decade.
The match was not the best for Neymar, to say the least. The Brazilian didn't have too many opportunities at goal and looked off. To cap off his bad night, Neymar couldn't convert the PK that would've made it 4-1 and essentially ended the semifinal. It was Ney's first failed penalty since 2012. Neymar's shot was nicely saved and there's no shame in that. It happens. Neymar will shake it off and in the second leg, he will look to redeem his bad game in the first leg.
Luis Suarez continues to show much heart, determination and energy on the pitch. Messi got the opening goal, but it wouldn't have come without Luis' pressure on Musacchio, run, and quick patience to hesitate for just a second and feed Leo for the goal. Luis has always been a hard worker, and at FC Barcelona, that hasn't changed.
Personally, I hope Luis Suarez grabs a hat trick soon. Not just because of the obvious reason that it'd help Barça, but because Luisito deserves some goals. He has worked hard—especially since the team turnaround started—and a Suarez on fire will be needed in order for Barcelona to not only win the Copa, but to overtake Real Madrid in La Liga as well.
Luis Suarez can smell goals. Hope he gets to taste a goal or three soon.
Andres Iniesta had a solid game against Villarreal. This season has seen Don Andres not at his usual standard, but against the yellow submarine, Iniesta had better rhythm on the pitch and in typical Andres fashion, was at the right place at the right time to get the second Barcelona goal. In my previous article, I asked you, the reader, who needs to step up in order for Barcelona to win La Liga. A 45% majority of you voted that it was Andres Iniesta that needed to make his presence more felt for Barça. While the Villarreal match wasn't a Liga game, it was good to see Iniesta have a good game. It is vital for Iniesta to be consistent, get his groove back, and be the threat in the midfield we know he is in order for Barcelona to continue its run of success this season.
Leo Messi remains on fire. Against Villarreal, he hit a landmark. Messi has now played in 500 games for FC Barcelona (457 official games and 43 friendly games) as he grabbed another goal and an assist on the night against Villarreal. Messi didn't grab a hat trick, but let's keep it honest; we can't expect Leo to grab three goals every game (although with his talent, we know he has the power to do so). To say that Messi "had an off match" against Villarreal would be ridiculous. As we've seen, Leo has a good game where he grabs a single goal, but does other things on the pitch to make his impact more than what the score sheet says. Messi could've had a second goal via the spot kick. But he let Neymar take the kick.
As my friend Rawan Eewshah said during the match on Twitter:
But it should be noted, Neymar is having a bad game and Leo let him take the penalty. What does that tell you?— Rawan (@itsRawanE) February 11, 2015
"But it should be noted, Neymar is having a bad game and Leo let him take the penalty. What does that tell you?"
Great point! Messi is showing leadership once again and trying to get his friend and teammate Neymar going with a shot at a goal. Rawan also pointed out that Messi did the same thing for Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 2009-10 season, when Zlatan was having a bad game. The greatest footballer of all-time loves scoring goals, but he loves getting his team involved as well. His goals, assists, passion and desire to help a teammate out on the pitch by any means necessary are just some of the many reasons why Lionel Messi is a true role model and an example of what a leader and great teammate is all about.
500 - Messi has now been directly involved in 500 goals as a STARTER for Barcelona - 394 games - 358 goals - 142 assists— MESSISTATS (@MessiStats) February 11, 2015
What's Next?: Sunday vs. Levante at the Camp Nou
Barcelona stays at home for the week, as they will welcome Levante UD in Liga action on Sunday. Look for Xavi to get a start as well as Pedro to rest either Suarez or Neymar. Marc Bartra is deserving of a start as well. Sergio Busquets rested against Villarreal, and will most likely see a start against Levante.
Xoel's Final Word
Barcelona continues its hot streak, as El Blaugrana defeated Villarreal 3-1 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal. Barça has now won 10 straight games in all competitions.
One foot in the Copa final. One step closer to lifting a trophy.
Nothing more to say than, "Keep it going, guys!"