The 2010/11 FC Barcelona team tonight inscribed their place in the history books of La Liga after securing a 16th victory in succession tonight against Atlético de Madrid. Not to mention we scored 58 goals in those games, and conceded just 6! Records are fabulous and I am very proud of achieving this, but almost more importantly for this season, we were clinical in getting another 3 points. Still, I think this Barca team should be remembered for always, and they will be, but having your names in records books helps you achieve immortality.
We were never really under pressure in this match and dictated it from start to finish. Flores left Forlan out from the start, and went with a 4-5-1 formation hoping that Merida, Assuncao, and Tiago could suffocate the midfield. His plan was somewhat working as we were struggling a bit to find space in the final third, but at the end of the day, we still found a way to win.
Villa was looking in the mood early on with 2 decent shots in the 7th and 9th minutes that went just wide. The breakthrough finally came in the 16th minute, when Messi scored his 22nd league goal of the season with a signature style goal. He got the ball just off center on the right, cut in onto his favorite left foot, left 3 defenders for dead and then calmly slotted the ball past De Gea.
We continued to dominate possession and Villa had another decent shot on target in the 17th minute. He got the ball on the left, cut in onto his right foot, and you knew as soon as he did that we would be having a strike on goal. The power was good but it ended up just before the near post.
In the 20th minute Messi nearly made it 2. Alves put a lovely weighted through ball, which Messi ran onto, but he never really steadied himself and took his shot a bit of balance which saw it not get the curl he wanted and ultimately fly past the far post. In the 25th minute, Pedro had a nice shot on target when Alves stole the ball just outside the box, sent Pedro in, but De Gea saved comfortably enough with his legs on the near post.
Just 3 minutes later, Messi did make it 2. Villa got the ball from Pedro at the top of the box, turned towards goal, then tried to play Messi on the right. Antonio Lopez read the pass, took a touch then tried to blast it clear, but Messi very clearly anticipated the defenders plan and blocked his clearance, then touched it past De Gea. This is not the prettiest goal Messi will ever score, and one he and most will forget sooner than later, but, it is a goal to admire simply for its effort. He read the game, anticipated the movement of the ball, and never gave up on the possibility of getting the ball in a dangerous area. Brilliant.
Atletico had their first proper chance in the 42nd minute when Aguero did some really nice work in the box. He showed great strength to knock Pique off the ball, cut into the box, changing direction a few times, but just before he got his shot off, Abidal put in a great block. Man, how good has Abidal become for us!
Villa very nearly got his name onto the scoresheeet in the 42nd minute after he curled the ball past De Gea, but just beyond the far post also. He may not be slotting them in week after week, but this boy is giving 100% effort, providing assists, and working his socks off. And that gets no complaints in my books.
Just as the 2nd half started, we saw a particular movement that sort of sums of Messi. Yes, he is the most talented, genius player in the game today, for my money, ever. He loves to score and attack, but he fundamentally believes in teamwork and hardwork. Aguero was on a breakaway, which was looking dangerous, then this flash of blaugrana comes flying back to defend, and no, it wasn’t Pique, or Abidal, or Alves, or any of the more predictable names, it was our number 10. He sprinted back, stole the ball off Aguero, ending their attack, but then had the composure to just knock the ball past an oncoming Atletico player. This got him huge chants from the crowd, and it was as deserved as any of the goals, if not more. It’s a credit to the fans they laud this sort of behavior as much as goals because the players respond to it and appreciate it.
The game had its moments from there on out, but nothing I am going to go into much detail about. Atletico had a super chance in the 52nd minute, that needed Pique to save it off the line, but other than that, we were never threatened badly. In the 72nd minute, De Gea pulled out a super save to deny Messi his hattrick, but he could not do the save just 7 minutes later. Messi slipped a ball into the box for Villa, who timed his run perfectly, took a shot on goal on the slide, which Godin got back to block. However, Messi again showed great anticipation and hunger to follow the movement of the ball, and steal it off Godin’s block to poke the ball home to make it 3-0. Godin had a chance a bit later, but, that was about it.
This game wasn’t a classic, and was not as entertaining as some of the previous years, but, we played quite well, with a lot of effort, and got 3 more points. Few can argue that Messi is man of the match tonight and I do not want to sound repetitive, but I feel honored and privileged to be able to watch this player play football like an art, week in week out. I know some are obsessed with the World Cup wins, and don’t get me wrong for a moment, I think Maradona was unbelievable and the way he basically single-handedly won trophies for Napoli and Argentina has huge merit. But, I think Messi is the best player to ever kick a football, and I believe (also pray a bit) he will continue to do so as a Cule from now until his last ever touch of a football.