Barça’s 100% away record in La Liga remained intact tonight after another superb performance from the team. It took time to get going but we have seen the pattern plenty of times before as little by little we wear teams down to leave them dead by the end. David Villa hit back at his critics by opening the scoring in the first half and second half goals from Messi, Iniesta and Pedro left the result beyond any doubt.
I said earlier in the week that we will see rotations in the team over the next few weeks with the aim of having the players at 100% for the Champions League clash with Arsenal on February 16. Tonight, Pep Guardiola chose to start Alves, Xavi and Busquets on the bench which meant a rare start for Adriano at right back while Mascherano and Keita came into midfield. The result of this was that we looked a little slower than usual and for the first 25 minutes we struggled to create anything. Messi tried combining with Villa and Iniesta but there was little space through the middle.
Depor had offered very little going forward though Adrian showed a couple of times that he was a touch quicker than Puyol. Then in the 21st minute Depor had an excellent chance to take the lead when the ball was headed on to Adrian our defence were all looking for offside but Piqué had been slow moving out, Adrian seemed so surprised to have such a clear chance that he failed to get a proper contact on the ball and only succeeded in sending it softly wide. Until now we had not even managed a shot, Adriano changed that by blazing over from distance on 24 minutes but then a couple of minutes later we took the lead with our first real chance. Messi received on the right, he moved inside a bit and then sent a perfect pass for Villa’s well-timed run to beat the offside trap, Villa had a tight angle but his shot found a way through Aranzubia’s legs and into the net.
After the goal we began to look more like ourselves in that we controlled the play more easily though we now chose to keep the ball instead of risking the forward pass. There was one occasion when Abidal got forward before pulling the ball back for Villa who angered Messi by shooting against the defender instead of passing. Having scored against Athletic, Abidal was obviously in the mood to get forward and in the 38th minute he amazed everybody by again getting the ball in the net but this time he was narrowly given offside when Messi made the pass.
We were not at our best in the first half but early in the second half a moment of magic from Messi killed off any possible reaction from Depor. Messi had been pulled back by Ruben Perez earning a free kick 30 yards out, the ball was slightly to the left of centre which might half given a better option to a shot from David Villa. But it was Messi who stepped up to hit a perfect curling shot into the top corner: the shot was so good that Arunzubia didn’t even bother trying to stop it, turning his back on the ball in frustration.
With the two-goal advantage we saw another similar pattern as we passed the ball from one side of the pitch to the other as the Depor players found it more and more difficult to keep chasing. Our possession game at times like this can seem almost unsporting as the other team has such difficulty to get a kick. Eventually, we wore them down and got our reward with a couple more goals near the end. In the 80th minute Piqué went on a foray forward before sending a pass out to Iniesta on the right, Iniesta cut inside before unleashing a powerful low left foot shot which flew past Arunzubia into the far corner. A minute later Messi made a penetrating diagonal run from the left before touching the ball through for Pedro to neatly lift over the keeper. Messi might have added a fifth after a good combination with Bojan but Arunzubia managed to do enough to send the ball out for a corner. We also had a few minutes at the end to see new signing Ibrahim Afellay but he didn’t really get a chance to show anything, hopefully we’ll see more of him again soon. Depor finally managed a shot on target in injury time after a poor pass from Piqué gave the ball away but Victor Valdés was as alert as ever to dent Adrian.
This was a clinical performance from Barça. We were not frustrated early on when we couldn’t find a way through and the patience paid off in the end. Of course it might have been different if Adrian had scored with Depor’s early chance but the fact that this was their only chance until injury time at the end shows that our defence was pretty much on top of things tonight. I won’t go into any of the record breaking statistics today but you are welcome to send any of these incredible stats into the comments section. To end today this report is dedicated to the memory of Ángel Pedraza who died earlier today (Saturday) after a long illness. Pedraza played 90 games for Barça in the 1980s. He was just 48 years old.
Depor: (4-4-2) Aranzubia; Laure, Colotto, Lopo, Manuel Pablo; Antonio Tomás, Rubén Pérez, Domínguez (Alvarez m77), Desmarets (Rindaroy m70); Saul (Valeron m54), Adrián.
Barça: (4-3-3) Valdés 6.5; Adriano 7, Piqué 8, Puyol 7, Abidal 8; Iniesta 8 (Thiago m82, –), Mascherano 7.5, Keita 7; Pedro 6.5 (Afellay m82, –), Messi 8.5, Villa 6.5 (Bojan m70, 6.5).
Goals: m26 Villa 0-1, m51 Messi 0-2, m80 Iniesta 0-3, m81 Pedro 0-4.
Yellow card: m50 Ruben Perez