It was mentioned in the press this week that the one thing that Barça hadn’t done under Pep Guardiola was to give local rivals Espanyol a good stuffing, but this evening at the Cornella-El Prat stadium the team demonstrated once again that we are playing at a different level to everybody else. Pedro(2), Xavi and Villa(2) got the goals and Espanyol had few answers to Barça’s dominance, but Osvaldo did manage to grab a consolation goal which was the first goal Valdés has conceded since we beat Villarreal 3-1 five weeks ago.
Today’s game began at the typical high tempo we have come to expect in these local derbies. Espanyol came out hoping to catch us cold and as early as the first minute Osvaldo fired in a low cross/shot that Valdés gathered at the near post. But Barça reacted with a cheeky overhead effort from Busquets that went just wide.
We were playing with our typical 4-3-3 shape with the only variant being that Puyol played on the right of Piqué rather than to the left. Both teams were playing with very high defensive lines that meant that the 20 outfield players were often all found in a thin band near the halfway line. There was not much room for our typical game of triangular short passing but we had the tactical option of playing the ball into space behind the Espanyol back four to make the most of the pace of Pedro and Villa, and as the game went on we began to find these two players with more and more frequency.
The chances began to come from early on, Messi forced the first save from Kameni in the 9th minute and a minute later Alves robbed the ball high up the pitch and got a run at goal, however, Alves hesitated and squared back to Messi who only succeeded in firing over the bar. The warning signs were there for Espanyol and we took a deserved lead after 19 minutes. Puyol broke down an Espanyol attack and Busquets was on hand to clear up, Busquets lobbed the ball forward to Pedro on the half way line, Pedro laid the ball off first time to Messi who pushed the ball through the middle for Pedro to run onto before sliding the ball under Kameni. We went further ahead in the 30th minute, Messi played the ball to Villa who sent the ball into space for Pedro to chase, Pedro got into the area on the left before playing the ball back to Messi who sent a chip to the far post where Xavi fired in a cross, the ball hit Alves and bounced back to Xavi who smacked the ball back this time finding a space inside the far post. Espanyol had few moments near our goal but Valdés had to make a tremendous save from Callejon in the 35th minute but the Espanyol players must have realised there was little they could do especially when we played the ball out of our own area with a series of short passes. It is the type of thing that would give most coaches a heart attack but Barça have the quality of players that makes this type of play possible.
Nothing really changed in the second half, Espanyol continued to work hard to try and close us down but our passing at the moment is too good for most teams and our patient approach led to more chances to add to our tally. In the 60th minute Messi made a great run in from the right, he bounced a pass off Pedro, took the return before sending in a powerful shot that Kameni failed to hold and Pedro was on hand again to drive home the rebound. A couple of minutes later Iniesta unselfishly squared to Pedro looking for a hat-trick but Kameni was out fast to close the angles. Espanyol then went straight up the other end and Osvaldo got away from Puyol to shoot past Valdés.
For about ten minutes the result looked like it could be in danger especially if Espanyol could have got a second. But apart from one weak header over from Osvaldo, Valdés’s goal was not threatened. Instead we took advantage of the tiring Espanyol defence to find passes into space. In the 76th minute Messi held the ball and waited for the right moment to slip the ball through to Villa who ran on to beat Kameni easily, then eight minutes later it was Xavi who found the pass for Villa to race through and get another.
For anyone who doesn’t know it might be easy to arrive to the conclusion that Espanyol are a poor team, but before today they had won seven out of seven in Cornella this season. Scoring five here impresses me more than the eight at Almeria. The team is in a fantastic moment and it was great to see the goals for Pedro and Villa tonight, just as Messi missed out on a goal in the 5-0 win over Madrid he again missed out today as we scored five, however, he was involved in the first four goals and demonstrated again that he can make goals as well as score them. It’s just worth mentioning the statistics from the start of this season. We have 43 points from 16 games which makes our best ever start to La Liga and in that time we have already reached 51 goals with just 9 conceded. Our away record is simply stunning: 8 games, 8 wins, 29 goals scored with just 4 conceded. And just for good measure Victor Valdés beat his previous record of 570 minutes without conceding, Osvaldo’s goal coming 576 minutes since the last one we conceded.
Barça: Valdés 7; Alves 7, Piqué 6.5, Puyol 7, Abidal 7.5; Xavi 7, Busquets 7 (Mascherano m78, 6.5), Iniesta 8 (Keita m85, –); Pedro 8.5 (Bojan m88, –), Messi 8, Villa 8.
Espanyol: Kameni; Chica, Forlin, Victor Ruiz, Didac; Baena, Javi Marquez; Luis Garcia, Verdu, Jose Callejon; Osvaldo.
Goals: m19 Pedro 0-1, m30 Xavi 0-2, m60 Pedro 0-3, m63 Osvaldo 1-3, m76 Villa 1-4, m84 Villa 1-5.
Barça yellow cards: m25 Busquets, m53 Piqué, m69 Alves.
It is a bit strange for me tonight to be writing what is in reality just another match report. However, two weeks ago I didn’t know if I would ever do another write-up of a Barça game. Thanks to your comments at fcbnews I realized much had been created and I realized I didn’t want to stop blogging or lose the community we have built up here. The offers of help came in and I rediscovered an enthusiasm for doing this. I hope that enthusiasm comes through and we can achieve a vibrant community feel to Barçacentral.
We support the best goddamn team in the world who play football the way it should be played. They are a special team, let’s make this a special blog