Barça finished the 2012/13 season with a 4-1 victory over Malaga at Camp Nou, taking the points total for La Liga to 100 and equalizing the record set by Real Madrid last season. However, the result and the record took second place in importance as Eric Abidal made an emotional final appearance as a Barça player.
There was a surprise in the starting lineup as José Manuel Pinto was preferred in goal over Victor Valdés, a decision that Tito Vilanova claimed was agreed between himself and Valdés because they did not consider that this would be Valdés’s last game for the club.
Barça began the game splendidly while Malaga seemed to be still taking a siesta. After just three minutes Andrés Iniesta spotted Pedro’s dash into the area and whipped in a perfect pass, as Malaga keeper Willy Caballero rushed out of his goal Pedro unselfishly squared the ball for David Villa who had a relatively easy finish into the empty net.
It wasn’t long before more goals came. In the 14th minute Cesc Fabregas cut inside from the left, skipping past Diego Lugano before playing a quick one-two with Iniesta and then striding past Weligton and firing past Caballero from the edge of the area. Caballero will have done his options of becoming Barça’s keeper little good in this goal as he basically fell over backwards as Fabregas’s shot flew into the centre of the goal.
A minute later Jordi Alba made a good overlap to cross towards Iniesta at the near post but Weligton managed to nudge the ball out for a corner. Xavi took the kick from the left, Julio Baptista rose to head the ball out of the area but the ball only reached Martin Montoya who hit a terrific first time shot that whistled just inside the far post.
With the score at 3-0 after just 16 minutes Malaga decided to wake up a bit while Barça slipped into just going through the motions. Baptista began to cause problems for Barça’s defence and Santa Cruz had the visitors first chance with a free header from a corner that flew past the far post. Then in the 29th minute Baptista had another chance but his shot brushed Piqué’s leg and went just wide.
There was a definite lack of intensity to the game now and the early decisiveness of Barça’s forwards disappeared. Piqué had a chance from a corner but he met the cross with as much shoulder as head and the ball went wide. Then just before half time Pedro made another decent run into the area to meet Xavi’s pass with his chest but the control took the ball too wide and when Pedro turned to cross the referee Miguel Ängel Ayza Gámez ignored a clear push by Baptista on Piqué.
The second half was an open affair with chances at both ends though the visitors looked the better team inspired by substitute Pedro Morales. In the 51st minute Isco turned Piqué, and Pinto had to make a splendid save from Baptista and as Joaquin went for the rebound Busquets stretched to get a toe in, sending the ball rolling towards the goal but Piqué got back to clear off the line. From a possible 3-1 the score went to 4-0 as Barça made a quick counter attack. Xavi found Iniesta in space and after taking a stride inside Iniesta curled a beauty from 25-yards just inside the far post. The goal was Barça 115th in La Liga, beating our previous best of 114 set last season
Malaga went in search of a consolation with Morales forcing another save from Pinto and soon after Isco sent a shot just wide. The visitors finally got a deserved goal shortly after Thiago came on in place of Iniesta. Jesus Gamez crossed from the right and Morales was left unmarked at the near post where he met the ball with a fine volley that flew past Pinto into the roof of the net.
There were more chances for Barça with the best falling to Pedro in the 61st minute but Fabregas’s pass bounced just before the Canarian who misjudged his half volley, sending the ball well over. Pedro made up for this miss with a fine pass into Villa but the Asturian’s first touch wasn’t good and the angle was lost.
Barça were playing some pretty sloppy stuff now with Piqué and Busquets particularly guilty of some poor distribution. Even Xavi was caught out in possession and this general somnambulance was only changed when Vilanova brought on Abidal with fifteen minutes remaining followed by Alexis a couple of minutes later. The crowd gave Abidal a massive ovation but one has to ask why he couldn’t have played more than fifteen minutes. Sandro Rosell had made a call to the fans to attend the game in order to give him a proper send off, and it’s almost certain that most people who attended the game were there to see Abidal. He had only fifteen minutes and he didn’t put a foot wrong, making one last splendid gallop up the left wing to put in a cross. As fans we don’t get to see how Abidal has been performing in training, but from the evidence of his appearances since his comeback one can’t help feeling that we could be making a mistake by letting such a classy player go.
At the final whistle Abidal was presented with a shirt with the number 22 and the message ‘Merci Abi’. Accompanied by his family and his donor cousin Gerard who deserves our eternal gratitude for his bravery and selflessness, Abidal made a speech to the crowd before being thrown in the air by his teammates before a final pasillo to applaud him off the pitch. Hasta siempre Abi, you will be sorely missed.
Barça: Pinto 7; Montoya 7, Pique 5.5 (Abidal m76, 7), Mascherano 6, Alba 6.5; Xavi 6, Busquets 5.5, Iniesta 7.5 (Thiago m55, 6); Pedro 6, Fabregas 6, Villa 6 (Alexis m78, 6.5).
Malaga: Caballero; J. Gamez, Weligton, Lugano, Eliseu; Toulalan, Camacho; Joaquin (Sebastian m71), Baptista, Isco (Saviola m79); Santa Cruz (Morales m45).
Goals: m3 Villa 1-0, m14 Fabregas 2-0, m16 Montoya 3-0, m52 Iniesta 4-0, m57 Morales 4-1.