Barca overcome brave 10-man Zaragoza
Lionel Messi notched a double as Barcelona came from behind to beat a brave 10-man Real Zaragoza 4-1 in an eventful match at La Romareda.
With Xavi Hérnández and Andrés Iniesta missing from the Barca midfield, it was Los Maños who made all the early running and Carlos Aranda spurned a great opportunity to give them the lead when he fluffed a 25th-minute penalty, Victor Valdés saving after the keeper had brought down Ángel Lafita. However, Aranda made amends five minutes later when he got free down the right and saw his shot somewhat fortuitously come back off the advancing Valdés and ricochet off him into the net.
The goal stung the surprisingly lethargic-looking visitors into action and it took them just six minutes to draw level, goalkeeper Roberto Jiménez fumbling in the box from a corner and Carlos Puyol prodding home the loose ball. Messi then made it 2-1 just three minutes later when he got free on the edge of the area and drilled a superb rising shot inside the near post.
It got worse for Manolo Jiménez’s relegation strugglers on the stroke of half-time when they had Abraham dismissed for a second bookable offence, the former Barcelona B defender pulling back Alexis Sánchez, but in truth the Catalans were fortunate to go in at the break one goal ahead.
In the second half Zaragoza gave as good as they got despite the numerical disadvantage, Ivan Obradovic shooting over with Lafita and Paulo da Silva seeing efforts blocked. At the other end Cesc Fabregas just failed to get on the end of Pedro’s cross and Alexis fired wide when it looked easier to have squared the ball. But Barca wrapped things up five minutes from time, Messi dispatching the resultant penalty - his 60th goal of the season - after Javier Parades had brought down Sánchez.
The Argentine then set up Pedro in stoppage time to score with a simple tap-in to complete a flattering 4-1 scoreline for Pep Guardiola’s men and reduce Real Madrid’s lead at the top of the table to three points.
Guardiola congratulated his players after what has been a difficult week following the Champions League semi-final victory over Milan, whilst Jiménez felt the result ‘was misleading and unfair’ and blamed the referee for his side’s defeat.
“Only we know how difficult this game was against this type of opponent and also the poor condition of the pitch, which didn’t do anybody any favours,” commented Guardiola. “It was a tough game after a tough week and we are proud to have won it. I have to congratulate my players.”
Jiménez said: “I believe in the honesty of referees, but when you see the images the decisions went against us. When you play 50 minutes with 10 men it is very difficult to beat a team like Barcelona but I am satisfied with my team’s performance.”
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