Majestic Messi smashes Raul’s record at Apoel

Apoel 0-4 Barça Messi goal celebration 2014It’s been quite a week for Leo Messi. First he scored a hat-trick in Saturday’s 5-1 victory over Sevilla to take Telmo Zarra’s all-time scoring record in La Liga. Then tonight he netted three more goals in Barça’s impressive 0-4 win at Apoel Nicosia to become the highest ever scorer in the Uefa Champions League with 74 goals. The game’s other goal came from Luis Suarez who broke his duck for Barça which with Xavi coming on as a substitute to reach a record of 145 Champions League games made it a memorable night for the blaugrana. The only negative point was the sending off of Rafinha who along with Dani Alves will miss the final game of Group F against PSG at Camp Nou which Barça need to win to finish above the French champions.

Team photo Apoel 2014Messi began the game on the right wing to allow Suarez to play through the middle but as early as the third minute the Argentinian had drifted infield to receive from Pedro before firing the first shot of the game which Apoel keeper Urko Pardo saved with his feet. Suarez also had an early shot straight at Pardo as Barça started strongly. Apoel sat very deep in a flat 4-4-2 formation and with Barça pressing impressively the Cypriot team hardly came out of their half until the last 30 minutes.

Barça played a patient game but with purpose. The ball was moved quickly from side to side to try and open up the packed defence and the chances came throughout. With the score at 0-0 the best occasions fell to Suarez whose shot was stopped by Pardo’s feet and Alba who volleyed narrowly over after a brilliant pass from Messi.

Apoel 0-4 Barça Suarez goal 2014The deadlock was broken in the 27th minute when Alba,who had another excellent game at left-back, played the ball forward to Suarez who turned Guilherme, knocking the ball through the defender’s legs before shooting Thierry Henry style past Pardo with the help of a deflection off Carlao.

The visitors dominance was briefly interrupted by yellow cards for Alves and Rafinha but Barça were soon back on the attack with Messi feeding Rakitic but the Croatian’s shot was blocked. Then in the 38th minute Messi played a one-two with Rakitic before finding Rafinha who shot from the edge of the area and Messi had continued his run to deflect the ball right-footed past Pardo. The goal was Messi’s 72nd in the Champions League taking him past ex-Madrid icon Raúl who had previously held the record with 71.

The second half looked like being a simple case of how many more goals for Barça. Pedro fired inches wide after Suarez dummied Messi’s pass. Then in the 58th minute Alves collected an Apoel clearance and played a rapid ball in to Messi who swivelled smartly and clipped another right-foot shot past Pardo and just inside the far post to make it 0-3.

Xavi and Adriano replaced Rakitic and Alba while the introduction of De Vincenti finally gave Apoel a spark in attack. In the 65th minute the home side mounted an attack up the left and the ball came inside to De Vincenti who turned well and shot only to be thwarted by a good one-handed save from Ter Stegen. It should be mentioned at this point that this was the first time in the entire game that the German keeper needed to use his hands.

Rafinha was somewhat foolishly and somewhat unluckily sent off after receiving a second yellow card for a foul on De Vincenti. With 20 minutes remaining there might have been a few nerves but Barça nearly took advantage of Apoel pushing forward when Alves crossed for Messi to lay the ball back for Suarez who powered a shot that Pardo did well to beat away.

Apoel 0-4 Barça Messi celebrates hat-trick goal 2014Busquets replaced Suarez to bolster the midfield and when Guilherme received a second yellow for bringing down Pedro numerical parity was restored. Then in the 87th minute Alves found Xavi on the edge of the area, Xavi played it square for Mascherano who pushed a quick pass into the area, Messi was in an offside position so he stood still to let the ball run past, Pedro galloped in from the left to keep the ball in, crossing back for Messi who completed his hat-trick with his third right-foot finish of the night. Messi now has 74 goals to Raúl’s 71 while Cristiano Ronaldo who plays tomorrow is four behind on 70.

Apoel: Urko Pardo; Mario Sergio, Guilherme, Carlao, Antoniades; Tiago Gomes, Vinicius (Djebbour m74), Nuno Morais, Aloneftis (Efrem h/t); Manduca (De Vincenti m63), Sheridan

Barça: Ter Stegen 7; Alves 7, Pique 7.5, Bartra 7.5, Alba 8 (Adriano m62, 6.5); Rakitic 6.5 (Xavi m62, 7), Mascherano 7.5, Rafinha 6; Luis Suarez 8 (Busquets m77, 6.5), Messi 9, Pedro 6.5.

Goals: m27 Suarez 0-1, m38 Messi 0-2, m58 Messi 0-3, m87 Messi 0-4

Yellow cards: m31 Carlao, m33 Alves (misses game with PSG), m35 Rafinha, m53 Guilherme, m70 Rafinha (=red), m84 Guilherme (=red).

Attendance: 22,800

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5 Responses to Majestic Messi smashes Raul’s record at Apoel

  1. Scotty says:

    First off, huge fan of this blog. Always spot on.

    Congrats to Messi and this team as a whole for this incredible record.

    I hate to be ‘Debbie Downer’ but there is an issue we need to address. Rakitic.

    I want to give him the benefit of a doubt but he doesn’t have that Barca DNA. It would be impossible for him to walk into this team and establish himself with the likes of Andres or Sergio. But what I’ve seen is we play a tad above his pay grade. A safe pass is his best and sometimes only choice. He sends great balls in during set pieces but since when have we been a set piece team?

    I wish him luck in the future, but with Cesc performing elegantly in Chelsea you have to wonder if we would have been better with the Catalan.

    If things went perfectly our midfield could have included both Cesc and Yaya. But why cry over spilt milk.

    Other than that, you can feel the Barca momentum picking up. Valencia is always a challenge. Especially at home. A true test.

    • Fredegar says:

      “He sends great balls in during set pieces but since when have we been a set piece team?”
      Well, after suffering for years for not being a “set piece team”, I for one wouldn’t mind if we became one 😉

    • Barca4Lyfe says:

      I completely disagree!! 100 percent disagree on this!!

      Since the start of the season, Rakitic has undoubtedly been our best man in central midfield hand down. Who has been better than him so far? May I ask who?

      While his pass completion may not be at the 93% mark…..he is well above the 83% level. He takes the daring pass….looks more for longer passes which I am completely fine with.

      Rakitic is the only dare devil to throw in that long through balls in this team every once in awhile.

      The most important aspect of Rakitic’s game is his intensity and box to box movement on and off the ball. No midfielder except for Mascherano at Barsa at current point beats his aggression and intensity.

      In short, we need Rakitic for

      1- His intensity and His ability to get aggressive off the ball tracking back deep. Very very hardworking
      2- His set piece delivery is one of the best in the team
      3- He possesses a decent pass and pretty good vision(Not as perfect as Iniesta but can be deadly with his long through balls)
      4- His height

      Overall, I like Rakitic better than Fabregas because while the latter seems to create more and score more, he is a softy. Useless in defense and is nowhere close as aggressive as compared to Rakitic. We do Not need an out an out CAM (Central Attacking Midfielder) in team Barcelona…..We are a best when we possess 10 outfield hardworking players forming a free flowing attacking unit. You fuck up your pass, you chase and you win it back sort of players. That is exactly what Rakitic is in my view. The best is yet to come from the Croatian. Watch out and enjoy!!

      • Barca4Lyfe says:

        FABREGAS if you pay close attention is not playing in central midfield in team Chelsea. He is more like the chief playmaker….His task is to solely attack…he seldom tracks back…. he saves his energy to provide more in the attacking third. We don’t need Fabregas! We have Neymar, Suarez and Messi who can handle that task with much better style, much better flair and much better results. We needed Fabregas to play the Xavi role, we needed a CM. We tried him there. And I wasn’t too impressed with his contributions, honestly.

        And to be fair, since we are speaking of CM’S here….I would like to mention how I hated the fact that we hardly saw Alex Song ever given a chance to fill in at Rakitic’s current role….the box to box CM. I have a hunch that he would have done really well there as well.

  2. Barca4Lyfe says:

    Now, for some reason I wish the manager does the right thing In resting Messi for the Valencia match. Give Pedro a start alongside Neymar and Suarez.

    Challenge the team to impress without Messi. Messi will need to be rested sparingly and I see this moment as the best to do just that. If the team fails to score b4 the 60th minute, bring Messi on from the bench.

    I wish the line up for that game will be

    Bravo, Alba, Bartra, Mathieu, Dani Alves

    Rakitic, Mascherano, Rafinha

    Pedro, Neymar, Suarez

    Messi, Iniesta, Adriano on as subs.

    The essence is to maintain the core of the team and see how much the team can Do vs a strong opponent without MEssi starting. It’s a risk. But I’ll take the gamble.

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