Not so long ago, whenever a first team player was not available for Barcelona, chaos and panic would have infiltrated into the players, the coach, the fans, and the whole world. Going into the match, and have Iniesta, Xavi, Cesc Fabregas, Puyol, Pique, Alexis Sanchez, and Pedro all out (whether on the bench or injured) would have surely sent you to your grave.
Not any more!
Barcelona started the game in their usual fashion, controlling possession and dictating play. A diving header from Keita, that was well saved by Mallorca’s Aouate, set the tune nicely for the night. Barca bossed the ball around but were caught napping on the 6th minute when Mallorca had a great chance to get a head start in the game through. A quick attack saw Joao Victor shoot wide from a whipped low cross from Barca’s right hand side. Mallorca were left to rue the missed chance, as 5 minutes later, Barcelona got a penalty kick courtesy of Nsue handling the ball in his penalty area after a flick from Adriano inside the box. Messi stepped up to the ball, with Sevilla’s penalty miss clearly a burden on his shoulders, dispatched the ball brilliantly into the top right corner. 1-0 Barca.
Clearly in a good mood since the start of the match, after celebrating the scored penalty, Messi went on to make a promise we all would like him to make each and every game.
From here on, you got a feeling that it was only a matter of time until Mallorca were massacred. Messi was everywhere, running at defenders and picking out team mates at well. Villa was guilty of shooting straight at the goal keeper after being released through on goal by wonderful through ball from Messi, a minute after scoring the first goal of the match.
It didn’t take long for Messi to add his second goal of the night. On the 21st minute, young Ceunca, who had the better of Bigas on a number of occasions, tormented him yet again to send a magnificent cross to the far post. Adriano’s fortunate cross-come-shot fell fortunately into the Messi’s path who made no mistake from close range.
Messi wasn’t done just yet and was in no mood to break his promise of a hat-trick. With Alves in acres of space on the right, Messi started a darting run through the middle towards the penalty area. Alves picked him up with an exquisite whipped cross towards the penalty spot kick. Messi gratefully met it with a half volley with his left boot to get his hat-trick of day and his 199 goals for Barcelona. Magnificent!!
Barcelona kept pushing for a fourth goal. Adriano and Alves were having a great game on the flanks, over-lapping the midfield to support the attack at well. A combination of accurate passes between Alves, Messi, Thiago, and Villa could have resulted in a wonderful team goal had Villa made better contact with his attempted back heel pass towards Thiago, the ball instead was well recovered by Aouate. Playing in his natural position as a central box-to-box midfielder, and with Busquets taking the burden of the DM position, Keita was having a wonderful game. On the 44th minute, and after bursting forward towards the penalty area, he went for it only to see it go agonizingly wide to a goal kick.
The first half ended but after the restart Barcelona continued where they left off, killing Mallorca softly with their passes. After getting his medical clearance after his recent injury troubles, Pique came on and took Abidal’s place to give him the much needed play minutes. Although Barcelona got their foot of the pedal, quite understandable with Tuesday’s away match to Viktoria Plzen in their minds, the players were still keen to extend their lead even further. Adriano cut inside from the left before catching Cuenca’s run behind the defense with a great through pass. Cuenca had the presence of mind to calmly round round the goal keeper to slot home his first goal for the first team.
Keita again came very close after failing to meet a great free kick delivery from Thiago. Shortly afterwards Puyol replaced Busquets to restore our central partnership we all missed with Mascherano liberated to take on his natural position in midfield. With the game virtually over, Pep answered our prayers and introduced the latest gem of La Masia, Gerard Deulofeu, with Villa making way. Gerard almost immediately looked dangerous after showing a small glimpse of his massive potential, expertly jiggling his way past a defender before losing the ball to a corner kick.
Messi then had a chance from a free kick to get his 4th goal of the match, and his 200 for Barca. However, his missile free kick was well saved by Aouate. The following corner nearly resulted in the 5th goal as the ball fell nicely towards Pique, only for his shot to be saved off the line.
Pele recently described Messi as an “incomplete player” because “he can’t score goals with his head”. And as if a champions league final goal wasn’t good enough, Messi had the chance to score from a header after yet another brilliant cross from Alves, only to see it go wide of the left hand post.
With the game now in added time, Messi decided to take on a couple of defenders and start one of his trademark runs. However, he was struck down by two Mallorca players, cluttering his back of the head in the process. Knocked out for a while, Messi the great rose and stood over the ball to take the resulting free kick. He quickly played it towards Alves, who, after taking a couple of touches, scored a magnificent golazo at an angle some 30 yards away from goal.