Messi 38, Villa 57, Pedro 66
At a time when the media spun tales of apparent crisis within the ranks of the world’s most captivating football team, the players of Barcelona put such rumours to one side by doing what they do best – stylishly defeating Mallorca by three well-crafted goals without reply.
Such is the fickle nature of football, any reported problems are likely to be quickly forgotten if the Blaugrana can continue to produce such complete performances in their league campaign. This performance was also a statement by Pep Guardiola that he has enough talent in the ranks to maintain a high level of performance when key players are absent. Sticking with the usual formation of 4-3-3, the Coach brought in Adriano to replace Dani Alves, and the reliable Seydou Keita to compensate for the loss of keystone midfielder Xavi Hernandez. Jose Pinto continued to deputise for the injured Victor Valdes in goal, and will be happy with his contribution having kept a clean sheet away from home.
As Guardiola’s re-shuffled pack attempted to mould early on in the game, Mallorca took advantage of their visitors’ unsettled state by created the lion’s share of the first chances, largely through swift counter attacks. However, as they began to motor, Barca became more and more dangerous and eventually took the lead though Lionel Messi. The Argentine showed he was more than just an exponent of easy-on-the-eye skills by showing industry to nod home an awkwardly bouncing high pass from Keita.
After the break, Barca were able to impose their game on the Mallorca, as the island side found themselves pegged back in their own quarters until David Villa slotted home the second. This time it was Sergio Busquets who provided the through-ball, again proving that the Blaugrana possessed enough guile to provide for their strikers in the absence of Xavi. After continuing the pressure, Barcelona was able to put this game beyond doubt with the luxury of 20 minutes left to play. Pedro Rodriguez cut inside and unleashed a dipping shot, albeit deflected, into the top corner. The goal was not in the usual style of the raw and pacey attacker, who is more prone to slotting home poacher’s efforts rather than long-range pile drivers. However, this further showed that Guardiola’s troops have many other tools in the locker to draw upon in testing times, and the striker’s goal epitomised the unstoppable belief throughout this award-winning squad.
Adriano provided many of the qualities of Alves, namely unflappable stamina and attacking creativity, and Keita offered a reliable and metronomic quality to the midfield – a trait highly valued by his Coach who often introduces the Mali international to help see out games in their latter stages. It was a night for Guardiola’s second ranks to show their worth, and the Coach will only be encouraged by what he saw as he reaches the crux of a season where competing for all honours begins to stretch his relatively thin squad.
21 Adriano – 3 Pique – 22 Abidal – 19 Maxwell
16 Busquets – 15 Keita – 8 Iniesta
17 Pedro – 10 Messi – 7 Villa
69 – 20 Afellay on for 17 Pedro
69 – 9 Bojan on for 7 Villa
85 – 40 Montoya on for 21 Adriano