A dazzling display of attacking football from a Barça team led by Leo Messi with a strong supporting role from Cesc Fabregas blew aside Osasuna with eight goals at Camp Nou tonight. Barça’s pride may have been somewhat affected after the recent draws against Real Sociedad and AC Milan led to some criticism, and the team came out with a desire to show the 70,000 crowd that this team is still hungry for more. Messi was virtually unstoppable scoring three and getting two assists as well as hitting the woodwork three times though it has to be said that for the third of these – when he chested, yes chested, the ball onto the bar – he was clearly offside.
Our two first choice full backs in the Guardiola era, Dani Alves and Eric Abidal, both played their 100th league game today for the club though Alves’s role today was that of a traditional wide attacker and the early danger all came from this right side. Alves had already played in a couple of centres when in the 5th minute he got into the area to head a Sergio Busquets pass across the area into the path of Messi who had a simple tap in at the far post.
With a back line of Mascherano-Puyol-Abidal with Busquets just in front of them where he looks much better, we played three creative midfielders with Thiago, Xavi and Fabregas interchanging positions. It was Fabregas again who was making the best-timed runs forward and in the 13th minute this led to our second goal. Thiago played the ball across to Cesc who chested the ball down to Messi while darting into meet Messi neat chip over the top with a cracking left-foot volley past keeper Fernandez.
Messi was causing havoc with his false-nine position, setting up Abidal of all people, to head against the bar but from an offside position and then he was at the far post again to head Alves’s terrific cross against the inside of the post. David villa was stuck out wide on the left; he had had one early effort on goal saved by the keeper but apart from that was not seen too much. However, it was a disciplined performance from Villa and his patience paid off in the 34th minute when Abidal spotted a hole in the Osasuna defence and threaded the ball in for Villa to dink the ball round Fernandez before firing into the empty net.
Five minutes later and Abidal started another goal, this time with a tremendous 60-yard pass forward from deep in Barça’s half which gave Villa another chance to head straight for goal. This time, however, his shot hit the goalkeeper, but the unfortunate Roversio couldn’t get out of the way as the ball rebounded off him and flew into the net. At this point we obviously thought that everything was going to work: a minute after the fourth goal Xavi played the ball into the area to Cesc who turned to set up Messi for what was more like a goal you would see in a five-a-side game. The dominance at half time was not only reflected in the 5-0 scoreline but also in the ridiculous 85% possession that we had.
The second half could never be as good but it wasn’t bad considering how we usually play when leading so comfortably. There was still an urgency to our play going forward and the players to their credit kept it up right to the end, though we did allow Osasuna about five minutes in the middle of the half when we might have conceded a goal but this could also be due to the fact that we were now playing with a back-three of Adriano-Mascherano-Maxwell but generally it continued to be one-way traffic. Messi had scooped the ball onto the bar after Alves again set him up but then Messi turned provider again with a sublime chipped pass over the top to Xavi who controlled well before calmly side-footing a lob over the advanced Fernandez to make it 6-0.
The last two goals came were both made by Cesc Fabregas who must be very glad he wasn’t losing at Blackburn like his ex-teammates at Arsenal. In the 76th minute Cesc got the ball in midfield and started running, he kept running forward as the defence backed off until finally avbout 25 yards out the defence decided to try and intervene, here Cesc got a fortunate rebound, possible on his hand, and suddenly he was clean through on goal. Here Cesc was unselfish as when the goalkeeper came out to meet him he touched the ball square to the waiting Villa who scored easily. Then three minutes after that Messi played a one-two with Cesc before dribbling into the area and completing his hat-trick.
This was truly great football. Yes, it was one-sided but that doesn’t suddenly make Osasuna a bad team. Tactically it seems we are again adapting to stay ahead of the rest and when it pays off it is quite spectacular. The risks off course are that we can be so clever that we end up confusing ourselves, but watching this group of players together, I can only marvel at the movement and understanding between them. If some people complain that this one-sidedness is not good for football I can sympathise with them on the level that, yes, it would be better for football if more teams could challenge for the title. However, if we are just talking aesthetics, this was quite simply beautiful to watch.
Oh yes, and Puyol played for nearly an hour and looked as solid as ever!
Barça: (3-1-3-3) Valdés 6.5; Mascherano 7, Puyol 7 (Maxwell m55, 6.5) , Abidal 7.5 (Adriano m45, 6.5); Busquets 7; Thiago 7, Xavi 8 (Afellay m61, 6.5), Fabregas 9; Alves 8, Messi 9.5, Villa 7.5.
Goals: m5 Messi 1-0, m13 Fabregas 2-0, m34 Villa 3-0, m40 Roversio o.g 4-0, m41 Messi 5-0, m57 Xavi 6-0, m76 Villa 7-0, m79 Messi 8-0.
Barça yellow card: m35 Villa