Espanyol sunk by Messi the Destroyer

Barça 5-1 Espanyol Messi hat-trick match ball 2014An astonishing performance from Leo Messi helped Barça come from behind to beat Espanyol at Camp Nou this evening. Ex-blaugrana Sergio Garcia shot Los Periquitos into an early lead but a hat-trick from Messi and goals from Gerard Piqué and Pedro Rodriguez earned Barça a 5-1 victory to remain just two points behind Real Madrid at the top of La Liga.

Messi may have been inspired by Cristiano Ronaldo scoring three in Madrid’s win over Celta yesterday – almost a case of anything you can do I can do without a dodgy penalty. The bookmakers have the Portuguese as favourite for this year’s Ballon d’Or but the Argentinian is putting in a strong late push scoring hat-tricks and breaking records on the way.

Cesar and Raul saw their records as top goalscorers in La Liga and the Champions League beaten recently, and on both occasions Messi netted three goals to take the records in style. Today he beat another Cesar record, that of top scorer in Barça-Espanyol derbies. Messi began the day with nine goals compared to Cesar’s eleven. Wasn’t it so typical of the Argentinian that he should grab another hat-trick for yet another record?

Barça 5-1 Espanyol Messi celebrate second goalHis three goals today had class written all over them. The first on the stroke of half-time started with the excellent Jordi Alba attacking from the left, Suarez moved towards him to play a quick one-two and Alba found Xavi who cushioned the ball back to Messi who dummied to shoot but just knocked the ball forward for a better angle and fired low through a pack of defenders and past Kiko Casilla. That was the equalizer. Then five minutes into the second half he put Barça in front. Neymar began the move beating an opponent with a step-over to create space and then finding Suarez on the left, the Uruguayan played a 25 yard pass infield to Messi who touched the ball past Fuentes’s challenge before bursting into the area and hitting a right foot shot into the far corner. The third came at the end to make it 5-1 with Espanyol now dispirited but it was a golazo all the same. Messi span away from one challenge before setting off towards goal, he skipped past another lunge before threading the ball through for Pedro and continuing to receive the return pass with another right-footed finish.

It wasn’t just about Messi. Luis Enriqué sent out a strong XI despite a big Champions League game with Paris Saint Germain in three days, with only Jeremy Mathieu and Andrés Iniesta of the team’s regulars not starting. The first ten minutes showed promising signs as Barça immediately took control against a defensive looking opponent. However, Espanyol did leave two players forward in their 4-4-2 formation and in the 13th minute Busquets, playing his 300th official game for Barça, was robbed by Caicedo who sent the ball to Sergio Garcia. It was a two-against-two situation but Piqué stood off the man with the ball too long allowing Garcia to run into the area and shoot low past Bravo from 15 yards for his first goal in twelve games against Barça..

Espanyol managed three more breaks towards the Barça goal, two of them dangerous, with the score at 0-1. The first ended with Sergio Garcia shooting softly at Bravo and later the Barça keeper had to come out to tackle Victor Sanchez with his feet. Barça took a while to get started and despite dominating possession didn’t manage a shot until Xavi fired over in the 20th minute.

Barça 5-1 Espanyol Messi free kick crossbarHowever, Barça improved as the game went on. Messi began on the right and had already demonstrated good crosses towards Xavi and Alba. Then in the 30th minute he burst through the middle and Sevilla was booked for scything him down. The free-kick was 25 yards out just right of centre, Messi curled the ball over the wall but the ball smacked against the crossbar and away.

Messi then demonstrated his skill with a spectacular slalom run past Sevilla and Fuentes that was only thwarted by an excellent block by Espanyol’s promising 20-year-old defender Eric Bailly. Barça’s other forwards were working hard but the chances weren’t coming. Neymar showed some sensational skill and blistering speed on the left but he was too far from goal for more effect, Suarez showed good movement but only had one half-chance after Xavi’s knock-back but he fired narrowly wide.

As the first half neared its end Messi sent a brilliant chipped pass for Alba’s late run, the full-back hit his shot first time but Casilla was well positioned to block. When the equalizer came just past the 45th minute it was well-deserved, though at half-time Espanyol could feel they had also shown merit with a strong defence and some dangerous breaks. The second half was a different story with Barça’s superiority made clear.

Barça 5-1 Espanyol Piqué goal 2014Messi’s second goal left Espanyol groggy, then Piqué finished them off in the 55th minute heading in from Rakitic’s corner. Iniesta came on in place of Rakitic to add some sparkle in the last 25 minutes but it was Barça’s second sub, Pedro, who had most effect, scoring Barça’s fourth after a magnificent 40-yard pass from Alba, and then playing the ball back for Messi to complete his master-class.

Ronaldo has no doubt had an amazing year and even though he plays for the enemy I don’t mind admitting I think he is an extraordinarily-talented player. However, when Messi plays at this level nobody can touch him. Simply the best. Simply sensational.

Barça: Bravo 6.5; Alves 6, Piqué 6.5, Mascherano 7.5, Alba 8.5; Xavi 7, Busquets 6 (Mathieu m83, –), Rakitic 6.5 (Iniesta m65, 7.5); Messi 10, Suarez 7 (Pedro m70, 7.5), Neymar 8.

Espanyol: Casilla; Arbilla, Álvaro, Eric Bailly (Abraham m83), Fuentes; Lucas Vazquez, Cañas (Hector Moreno m60), Víctor Sánchez, Salva Sevilla; Sergio García, Caicedo (Stuani m71).

Goals: m13 Sergio Garcia 0-1, m45+1 Messi 1-1, m50 Messi 2-1, m53 Piqué 3-1, m77 Pedro 4-1, m81 Messi 5-1.

Yellow cards: m29 Sevilla, m69 Alvaro, m79 Arbilla

Attendance: 76,057

 

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One Response to Espanyol sunk by Messi the Destroyer

  1. Barca4Lyfe says:

    While I agree with pretty much 3/4 of this write up, Nic….. I certainly disagree on Xavi, busquets and Pique’s overall rating.

    I’ll only give Pique, Xavi and Busquets a 5.5 and nothing more honestly.

    All three had a role to play in a very lousy first 44 minutes.

    I would like to reinstate my point that I have mentioned recently.

    With Xavi and Busquets together in mudfield, we are a step too slow and a few notches lacking in aggression and pressurring. This will be a HUGE factor against PSG, and a top quality team, trust me!!

    This encounter was All about Messi brilliance. But overall the the team that we put out agsinst Espanyol is still not good enough to take on the top sides.

    I’m worried about the constant reshuffling of the keeper and two center backs which I find VERY less necessary. If anything, these three players have the least to handle in most games like this one As they see very less of the ball as compared to the other players. The reshuffling will cost us in terms of team chemistry defensively which we clearly need to establish before the big games!!
    Anyone here agrees on this?

    My top line up remains to be

    Claudio Bravo
    Alves, Bartra, Mathieu, Alba
    Rakitic, Mascherano, Iniesta
    Messi, Suarez, Pedro

    Neymar, Stegen, Pique, Busquets, Rafinha, Sandro, Xavi as our Subs.

    This line up hits all the angles needed really

    Adequate speed in midfield,

    Height in corner kick defending ( Suarez, Bartra, Mathieu, Rakitic are all fairly strong in the air)

    Aggression and pressurring will be at a good level too.
    Rakitic, and Mascherano have proven to be very effective in ball winning and pressurring. Not to forget Suarez is a natural ball hunter if let loose.

    We have
    1- messi Magic
    2- Suarez’s power and Magic
    3- PEdro the direct player who runs allloooot and plays that facilitator role in attack, good at simple play, has speed and is a lot more a team player than Neymar.

    MAscherano as a DM will reduce the burden of the center backs as his aggression tackling and reading of the game is one of the best in the world at current point especially.

    In total we will have all ingredients for success.

    I wish Luis Enrique figures out his starting line up real soon!!

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