The midday kick-off time proved to suit Barça well as Getafe were hit for six at Camp Nou. A big crowd of over 85,000 were treated to an exhibition of attacking football, and goals from Alexis Sanchez, Leo Messi, David Villa, Cristian Tello, Andrés Iniesta and Gerard Piqué maintain Barça’s healthy advantage over Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid at the top of the table.
There were various changes to the so-called once de gala with Thiago Alcántara replacing the injured Xavi while Adriano, Alex Song, Alexis and Villa started in place of Alves, Busquets, Fabregas and Pedro. There was no sign of any sleepiness as Barça got off to a flying start. After just five minutes Iniesta spotted Alexis’s diagonal run and sent an exceptional defence-splitting pass which Alexis controlled well with his right foot before nicking the ball back past keeper Jordi Codina with his left. Much has been said of Alexis’s poor finishing this season but there has never been much doubt about the quality of his off the ball movement. Here his run was again first class and his finish was cool, though the brilliance of Iniesta’s pass deserved the goal by itself.
Iniesta’s form in recent weeks has been extraordinary and he was heavily involved in Barça’s second goal in the 13th minute. Thiago began the move finding Iniesta to his left, then after exchanging passes with Alba, Iniesta sent in another perfectly weighted pass for Thiago who had made a storming run into the area where after controlling he spotted Messi in a better position, laying the ball off for the Argentinian to sweep home his 299th goal for Barça.
The 300th goal looked like it would arrive pretty soon. In the 20th minute Messi received a ball out of defence from Adriano and after making a lightning quick turn he set off on a direct run for goal, only Lopo stood in his way and it must be a frightening sight having Messi coming full pelt towards you, but the Getafe defender held his ground and made an excellent intervention to stop the Argentinian going through.
Villa had been drifting inside to play a more central attacking role with little luck in the first twenty-five minutes. He started to become more involved as he moved towards the left, first sending a neat back heel for Messi to cross unsuccessfully and soon after it was Villa crossing after a very long attack but the four-time Ballon d’Or winner failed to make contact with his spectacular attempt at an overhead kick.
Getafe hadn’t come anyway near Victor Valdés’s goal until a hopeful chip from Adrian Colunga went not far over in the 30th minute. Barça were straight back at the other end with a more confident Alexis crossing for Messi who somehow pulled his volley from four yards back across the goal and against the post. Then soon after Alba got forward to cross for Villa’s first decent chance but the Asturian fired narrowly wide from ten yards.
Barça were controlling the game with a possession of 75%-25% and the chances kept coming. In the 37th minute Messi’s dribble freed Villa on the left but the cross was just to high for Messi to keep his header down. Then shortly before half time Alexis made a fine run into the goal area from the right before pulling the ball back to Thiago who was denied a goal by a combination of Miguel Torres and keeper Codina.
At half time Alves came on for Adriano, who’d taken a whack on the calf muscle, with little change to the general pattern of Barça domination. Iniesta continued to shine, making one sensational run into the area from the left that was only stopped by a last ditch tackle from Mehdi Lacen. Then in the 57th minute Villa found the overlapping Alba whose cross created a double chance with first Messi’s shot being block by Alexis Delgado and then Alexis was also charged down by the Getafe defence.
With the score at 2-0 there was always the sneaking feeling that Getafe might score out of the blue to complicate matters. However, the third goal came just a minute after the Messi-Alexis double chance. Messi found Iniesta who sent the ball out to Alba 40 yards out near the left touchline, the full-back sent a crisp pass forward for Villa who’d made the diagonal run into the left of the area and he finished first time, firing the ball hard and low through Codina’s legs via the keeper’s left heel.
Barça might have taken a breather after the third goal but what was particularly impressive at this stage of the game was how we maintained a high intensity especially in winning the ball back quickly on the rare occasions we lost it. Tello and Mascherano came on in place of Alexis and Puyol and soon after coming on Tello struck with Barça’s fourth. Messi’s run through the middle drew the defence towards him which allowed him to slip the ball to Tello to his right, the youngster then picked his spot superbly with a curling shot into the corner from 20 yards.
Getafe continued to show few ideas in attack but then in the 83rd minute a long hopeful ball forward was misjudged by Alba who only succeeded in heading the ball into the path of Alvaro Vazquez who arrived before Mascherano and Valdés to slip in a consolation goal. Four-one might have been enough for most teams but players like Messi and Piqué always want a bit more. Messi had a fine chance from Alves’s cross but sent his header wide but undeterred a minute later he dribbled into the area, again drawing defenders towards him: Escudero managed to stop Messi’s run but only sent the ball straight to Iniesta who capped another Man-of-the-Match performance with a cool finish. Then in injury time Piqué, perhaps bored by the lack of work in defence, appeared on the right wing. He sent the ball back to Alves whose cross found Thiago completely free after beating the offside, and Piqué was on hand to tap home Barça’s sixth after Thiago’s generous assist.
The whole midday kick off thing turned out to be a positive experience. What better breakfast than coffee and Getafe? Of course for fans around the world there will be a mixed feeling to this kick-off time with those to the east of Barcelona being favoured while for culés across the Atlantic this will have been a very early start. Tito Vilanova, who we now know is still controlling every detail while he continues his radiotherapy treatment in New York, will have received a positive boost after his pre-dawn rise this morning. It wasn’t quite a classic performance due to the odd poor pass in the first half, the occasional less-than-clinal finishing, and worst of all the back-header gift from Alba. However, there were plenty of positives the main one being that all the forwards got on the scoresheet. Alexis definitely needed a game like this to get his confidence back while Tello and Villa will also be boosted by finding the net today.
The team can now enjoy a week without a midweek fixture which should have us raring to go for the coming games at Granada next Saturday then in the Champions League at AC Milan on the following Wednesday.
Barça: Valdés 6.5; Adriano 7 (Alves m45, 7), Piqué 7.5, Puyol 7.5 (Mascherano m76, 6.5), Alba 7; Thiago 7.5, Song 7.5, Iniesta 9; Alexis Sanchez 8 (Tello m73, 7), Messi 8, Villa 7.5.
Getafe: Codina; Miguel Torres, Alexis Delgado, Lopo, Escudero; Lacen, Borja; Diego Castro, Barrada (Sarabia m70), Gavilán (Pedro Leon m65); Colunga (Alvaro Vazquez m73).
Goals: m6 Alexis Sanchez 1-0, m13 Messi 2-0, m58 Villa 3-0, m79 Tello 4-0, m83 Alvaro 4-1, m90 Iniesta 5-1, m92 Piqué 6-1
Yellow cards: m39 Lopo, m41 Diego Castro.