A first half Leo Messi hat-trick plus two goals from Alexis Sanchez put Barça on the road to a comfotable 0-8 win over Raja Club Athletic in Tangier tonight in Tito Vilanova’s second preseason game in charge of the first team. Dani Alves, Sergi Gomez and Gerard Deulofeu completed the rout in the second half.
The game began at the unusual time of midnight due to Ramadan, and I don’t mind admitting that this is not my favourite time to watch football, however, with the first chance to see Messi in action this season it was worth staying up. And Leo didn’t disappoint. In the first five minutes he was close to setting up Afellay twice and not long after he curled the first shot on target though Raja keeper El Had made a comfortable save. Then in the 13th minute Messi fired in a low shot that hit Alexis and then deflected kindly into the path of Alves who quickly squared back to Alexis to score from close range.
Barça continued to dominate with Raja being limited to one weak shot after Dos Santos lost the ball in a dangerous position. However, the second goal took a while in coming but then four goals came in quick succession in a blistering twelve minutes at the end of the first half. First Afellay sent Messi clean through and Leo fired high into the net past El Had. Soon after Alexis robbed a defender deep in Raja territory and following a quick exchange of passes between Alexis and Messi, the Argentinian burst into the area to shoot past El Had’s dive. Then in the 41st minute Dos Santos won the ball and fed Messi who skipped away from one challenge before sending another assist into Afellay who shot well but El Had saved and Alexis was on hand to make it 0-4 from the rebound. There was no stopping Barça now and on the stroke of half time Messi slotted a pass through for Alexis to chase and when El Had ran out of his goal to challenge the ball ricocheted nicely for Alexis who then unselfishly squared for Messi to complete his hat-trick.
Vilanova made no changes at half time which gave the crowd another 18 minutes worth of our strongest available team. In that time Messi might have added a couple more but one dainty lob came back off the crossbar and on another occasion he failed to score with his trademark dink, only succeeding in scooping the ball as high as El Had’s waiting hands. The intensity of the game began to drop but Barça got a sixth after Alexis was brought down after chasing Rafinha’s throughball and Alves was given the job of sending the keeper the wrong way from the spot.
There were then a whole load of substitutions which completely broke the rhythm, however Barça’s youngsters again gave a good showing and we added two more late goals thanks to a Sergi Gomez 30-yard drive after a short free kick and cool finish from Gerard Deulofeu running on to a pass from Patric.
This was a good all round performance from the players and it was of course especially pleasing to see Messi returning in such good shape. It was also good to see Alexis get a couple of goals – let’s hope he can improve on last season ‘s tally – while of the youngsters I was particularly impressed tonight with Bartrá and Sergi Roberto, if they can continue to improve I’m sure they can have a future at the club.
You may have heard that the Catalan Cup game this week has been cancelled which means our next preseason game is next Saturday evening against Paris St Germain.
Barça: Pinto; Alves (Balliu m70), Bartrá (Sergi Gomez m70), Mascherano (Lomban m70), Adriano (Planas m63); Sergi Roberto (Patric m70), Dos Santos (Gustavo Ledes m63), Rafinha (Espinosa m63); Alexis (Femenia m63), Messi (Deulofeu m63), Afellay (Lobato m70).
Goals: m13 Alexis 0-1, m34 Messi 0-2, m38 Messi 0-3, m41 Alexis 0-4, m45 Messi 0-5, m57 Alves (pen) 0-6, m87 Sergi Gomez 0-7, m88 Deulofeu 0-8