Elche will be glad to see the back of Barça. Four games between the sides this season have ended with an 18-0 aggregate in favour of the Catalans after tonight’s 0-6 win at the Martinez Valero stadium. The home team will be wondering what hit them after the deadlock was only broken in a closely fought first-half by a 35th minute goal by Gerard Piqué. Leo Messi put Barça further ahead from the penalty spot ten minutes into the second half and all hope was lost for Elche when Faycal Fajr received a second yellow card soon after. In the last twenty-five minutes Neymar twice, Messi again and Pedro all scored to rub salt into Elche’s wound as Barça maintain the pressure on league leaders Real Madrid.
Luis Enrique made six changes to the team that beat Atlético Madrid in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday. Claudio Bravo returned in goal while Montoya, Bartra, Xavi, Rafinha and Pedro replaced Alves, Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta and Suarez. Whether it was the number of changes or the below-par playing surface Barça struggled to find any rhythm throughout a disappointing first half. Even Messi, who was back as false nine, was off the boil, over-hitting two passes and getting robbed twice in the first 20 minutes while Neymar was more involved in off-the-ball niggling with Damian Suarez than in creating any danger.
The only threat near Tyton’s goal came from free-kicks, with Alba volleying over from Xavi’s cross and Messi curling one from the right narrowly wide of the near post. Barça’s build-up was too slow with players taking too many touches and Elche also began to threaten as mistakes crept into Barça’s game. Montoya was the first to lose the ball in a compromising position and two quick passes gave Fajr a shooting chance from the edge of the area and Bravo did well to save with his legs. Soon after the Barça keeper was called on again to push away Fajr’s free-kick for a corner.
Barça finally created a chance from open play in the 34th minute when Messi crossed from the right but Pedro left it for Neymar who missed his kick under pressure from Damian. Then a minute later Pelegrin brought down Pedro on the right to give Barça another free-kick within shooting range. As Messi walked back to line up a shot Xavi took a quick kick, crossing to the far post where Piqué had ghosted in and the Barça defender controlled on his chest before hooking a shot past Tyton with the help of a slight deflection off Cisma.
Elche tried to hit straight back with a 25-yard drive from Pasalic that forced Bravo into another diving save but Barça looked more comfortable now. There was the odd moment of uncertainty from Bartra but as the game entered the second half Barça’s dominance became more evident. In the 53rd minute Messi sent a glorious pass through to Alba who headed into the goalmouth but Tyton bravely dived to beat Neymar to the ball. Soon after, a quick break started with Pedro finding Rafinha who sped forward before slipping the ball to Neymar on the left, a quick step over from the Brazilian drew a foul from Pelegrin and referee Clos Gomez pointed to the spot. Messi sent Tyton the wrong way and Barça were two-up.
There was never really any chance that Barça could lose it now but when Fajr got his second yellow card two minutes later it was curtains for Elche. The gaps opened up and inevitably more goals arrived. Twice, in the 69th and 71st minutes Messi found the pass to set up Neymar who curled the first one inside the far post and volleyed the second high into the net. Then near the end Bartra sent a fine pass forward for Messi who controlled, turned and shot into the far corner with consummate ease. Pedro completed the rout, tapping in after a splendid run and generous assist from Neymar.
Elche: Tyton; Damian, Roco, Pelegrin, Cisma (Albacar m60); Fajr, Pasalic, Adrian (Lomban m70), Niguez (Coro m81); Victor Rodriguez; Jonathas.
Barça: Bravo 7.5; Montoya 6, Piqué 7.5, Bartra 6, Alba 6.5 (Adriano m70, 6.5); Xavi 7 (Sergi Roberto m72, 6.5), Mascherano 7 (Busquets m70, 6.5), Rafinha 6; Pedro 6.5, Messi 7 Neymar 8.
Goals: m35 Piqué 0-1, m55 Messi (pen) 0-2, m69 Neymar 0-3, m71 Neymar 0-4, m88 Messi 0-5, m93 Pedro 0-6.
Yellow cards: m20 Cisma, m27 Ñiguez, m35 Pelegrin, m40 Johnathas, m41 Fajr, m57 Fajr = red, m63 Mascherano, m66 Alba, m79 Lomban.