Barça finished a magnificent 2011 with total goal fiesta over L’Hospitalet to qualify for the last 16 of the Copa del Rey. The 56,000 spectators that braved the cold were treated to nine goals which is the biggest Barça victory in an official game since a 9-0 league victory over Rayo Vallecano in January 1979. The new FIFA Club World Champions celebrated in style with goals from Pedro, Iniesta, Thiago (2), Xavi, Tello (2) and Cuenca (2), though the night was not perfect as Andres Iniesta picked up a hamstring injury that will need around fifteen days to mend.
Pep Guardiola treated the game with exactly the same importance as he has treated all his games as Barça coach and he put out an exciting looking team made up of Pinto and ten products of our cantera. It wasn’t the youngsters as expected but the crowd was rewarded with no fewer than seven of Spain’s World Cup winners in the starting XI. The players came out as if the game were as important as a World Cup Final and poor L’Hospitalet were overrun from start to finish.
It should be said that the first goal came after a pretty disgraceful dive from Isaac Cuenca though the commentator on the Catalan TV informed viewers that Cuenca had behaved like a veteran! Pedro sent the keeper the wrong way from the spot. The second goal was much more pleasing as Xavi threaded a ball through for Cesc’s penetrating run and then Cesc squared for Iniesta to score into the empty goal. We went three up after just 22 minutes when Thiago was rewarded for his persistance, robbing a L’Hospitalet defender on the edge of the area before shooting high into the net.
After half an hour Iniesta injured himself challenging for the ball with the goalkeeper and had to be replaced by Sergi Roberto but our onslaught continued and we were close to a fourth as both Cesc had one effort cleaered off the line and then Cesc and Sergi Roberto were both denied in quick succession by saves from the keeper. However, we didn’t have long to wait long as Xavi exchanged passes with Cesc to get into the area and score off the post. With four on the scoreboard Guardiola decided to give Xavi a rest which gave Cristian Tello the chance to come off the bench to give a man of the matchg performance. Tello had only been on the pitch for five minutes when he received a defensive clearance from Thiago, Tello ran fifty yards on the left with the ball to score the fifth and join the party.
There was little let up in the second half. Tello showed a quick change of rhythm to get past his man and set up Cuenca for the sixth, and then Cuenca went down in the area again but this time the penalty was correctly awarded for an illegal challenge and Thiago was given the chance to score his second of the game from the penalty. Tello scored an excellent eighth picking his spot inside the far post and nearing the end Cesc sent Cuenca in to slam home the ninth. There were chances for Pedro, Piqué and even Puyol with a header to score a tenth but in the end we had to settle for single figures.
The game is just another example of how well things are working at the club. The group is being managed so intelligently that the players come out for a game like this and give such a professional performance. I suppose some will say Pep should have used more youngsters in this game but I’m not sure if these players would respond so well if they were all put in together, perhaps it is better to introduce them one or two at a time as it must give them more of a lift when they see Cesc and Puyol as their teammates. I should also mention the crowd which was also superb and the club should be applauded for promoting various schemes to encourage attendance tonight.
Barça: Pinto 7; Puyol 7, Piqué 6.5, Fontás 6.5: Busquets 7 (Dos Santos m56, 7), Xavi 8 (Tello m37, 8.5), Iniesta 7 (Sergi Roberto m30, 7), Thiago 7.5; Cuenca 8, Fabregas 7.5, Pedro 7.
Goals: m11 Pedro (pen) 1-0, m14 Iniesta 2-0, m22 Thiago 3-0, m35 Xavi 4-0, m42 Tello 5-0, m47 Cuenca 6-0, m54 Thiago (pen) 7-0, m63 Tello 8-0, m80 Cuenca 9-0.