Deportivo La Coruna 4 – 5 FC Barcelona: Boom Goes the DynamiteBy: kelsey | October 21st, 2012
Wow. What a game. First things first, we came out on top, and deservedly so, but boy, was that a roller coaster. After Barca’s three quick unanswered goals, naturally assumed this one would be in cruise control until the end. That notion was quickly dashed when Depor scored a dubious penalty then got another past Valdes. Fabressi calmed the nerves a bit right before the half combining to give us another, but the floor dropped out again when play resumed as Depor scored immediately off a free kick. Then the ref somehow found fault with Masch (and everyone else) for a non-foul sending him off with a second yellow. Down to ten men for the remainder, Tito tinkered with the line up shoring up the defense and midfield most notably bringing in the Maestro. (So much for rest; there would be nothing restful about this game.) Seemed as though all would be right with the world when Leo made a dizzying run through the defense and bagged his third goal of the game, but that sense of security would not last long. When Depor counterattacked, Alba, in what can only be described as an incredible mental lapse, chipped the ball over Valdes’ head into the net instead of clearing out the danger. All’s well that ends well though as Barca did manage to maintain the result and secure the victory. Phew.
Coming off the international break, and playing away from home with a heavily depleted defense due to injury (please come out of hiding, Pique, you were supposed to be back joking around in training and masquerading as a striker during matches ages ago), it was clear Barca’s line up wouldn’t be our preferred starting eleven. So as expected, Tito rested Xavi (and Pedro) with Tuesday’s CL clash in mind, again went with Song as a makeshift CB, and started Villa, much to our delight. Tito fielded: Valdes in net, Montoya, Song, Mascherano, and Alba in the back, Cesc, Busquets, and Iniesta in the midfield, and Tello, Messi, and Villa up front. Pinto, Bartra, Adriano, Dos Santos, Xavi, Alexis, and Pedro watched from the bench. On the other end, Deportivo played Aranzubia; Laure, ZeCastro, Marchena, Ayoze; Gama, Aguilar, Valeron, Bergantinos, Pizzi, and Riki.
Whistle sounded and Barca was off to the races. Less than three minutes in, Cesc sends a beautiful through ball to Jordi Alba, who takes one cool touch and buries it making it the fastest goal Barca’s scored this season.
Less than five minutes later, Barca added to the tally with Messi drawing defenders at the top of the box before passing it wide to Tello. Tello takes it around a defender and slaps it in through the keeper’s legs. 2-0 Barca in under 10 minutes of play.
The third was not far behind. Near the top of the box, Cesc gets the ball and takes one dribble towards the defender opening up space for Messi behind him. He backheels to Leo, who takes a touch and buries it in the top of the net. Brilliant pass from Cesc, cool finishing from Leo. 3-0 Barca in under 20 minutes, surely the game is well in hand and we’re sailing smoothly now, right? Wrong.
Just when everything seemed secure and unhampered by the fact that none of our preferred starting back four (if we count Abi, which we do) are fit to play, things started to get a little hazy. First, Depor gained some counterattacking teeth. Second, neither this ref nor set pieces were our friends. Unable to otherwise stop Riki’s dribble into the box, Busquets and then Masch tried to dispossess him by tackling the ball away. Busi’s was ineffective, obviously not his strong suit, Masch though is one of the best tacklers in the business so expected more from him. Not so much. While his clumsy tackle was indeed a foul that Riki made a meal out of, Masch was outside the box. Ref pointed to the spot regardless and Depor buried it. A short time later on when one of their ensuing counters, Depor finds the net again this time off a corner. Valdes, slow to react since his vision was blocked by a number of players, couldn’t stop the ball as it ricocheted down low off his hands and into the corner of the net. Not a howler, but definitely a stoppable shot, and Valdes’ frustration was palpable as he kicked at the turf. 3-2 Barca.
As time wound down in the first, Messi and Cesc again linked up to fortify the lead. After a nice give and go, Cesc threaded the ball through a couple defenders with a perfectly weighted pass to Messi inside the box. Messi one timed into past the keeper into the far corner. 4-2 Barca and all breathed a bit easier going into the half.
The sense of calm would not last. No sooner had the players retaken the field then Depor found the back of the net, off yet another dubious call and set piece. Ref calls Busi for a soft foul, and Depor put the resulting free kick in the near upper corner of the net. Excellent free kick, not so excellent refereeing. The ref’s next big call was no doubt his worst yet though. Masch wrests control of the ball away from Riki outside the box, and his arm makes slight contact with the attacker. Riki falls to the ground clutching his face. Ref blows Masch for a foul and awards him his second yellow of the evening. Absolutely absurd. And Barca’s left with ten men for the remaining third of the match.
As Tito is now left with one makeshift CB and two young FBs, he wisely chose to bring on subs. Adriano in for Villa to shore up the back line, Pedro in for Tello for his superior defensive abilities, and Xavi for Cesc to maintain greater possession and control of the midfield. The Maestro immediately calmed the pace down and exerted control over the middle of the pitch. Appeared as though Barca had weathered the storm and could ride it out, but not without a few late fireworks.
In one of his trademark dribbles, Messi receives the ball in the middle of the pitch, and goes around multiple defenders on his way to goal. Caps off a commanding performance with an excellent low shot to the far corner of net. 5-3 Barca with less than 15 minutes left to play in regulation. Unfortunately, that goal would not be the last as Alba inexplicably chips a Depor cross over an attacker and Valdes into Barca’s net at the other end minutes later. Thankfully, while Depor managed to create a few more decent chances off counters, nothing else went in and Barca preserved the lead and got the hard fought victory.
Valdes – 4: Not a good night for VV. Not that he had much of a shot of stopping most of the goals, aside from the second, but he just hasn’t looked as comfortable or as confident in the back as he has in past seasons. Still one of the best in the world, just needs to find his groove again.
Montoya – 6: Good performance from the youngster.
Song – 6: Still adjusting to the makeshift role, and Barca play, but proving to be a quick study and looking good.
Masch – 5: Not Masch’s night. While the ref unfairly called him for the second yellow, his tackle leading to the penalty was very clumsy.
Alba – 4: This was not a showcase game for Jordi Alba. While he did score and attacked well, Jordi’s defending left a lot to be desired culminating in the truly terrible own goal, which set a frenzied tone at the end of the match.
Busi – 7: Busquets is really a jack of all trades seamlessly covering wherever the team needs him on the field. Could’ve defended better during the play leading to the first goal, but otherwise a real stalwart for Barca.
Cesc – 10: Joint-MOTM. Fabulous form and vision from Cesc; three great assists in the first half alone, and probably should’ve had another when released Pedro in the second. Brilliant.
Iniesta – 6: Better towards the end of the game, but not completely involved and on target the way we are used to seeing him play.
Tello – 6: Great show of skill to score early in the first, and linked up well on offense in general.
Leo – 10: Joint-MOTM. Another absolutely dazzling display from Leo Messi capped off with an incredible individual effort to score his third goal of the game and secure the victory for Barca.
Villa – 6: Great to see him start; still seems to be getting accustomed to the run of play again.
Adriano – 7: Did well when he was brought on intercepting passes and protecting the back. Well done.
Pedro – 6: Good, but not the same level of form we’ve seen from Pedrito lately for Spain or Barca.
Xavi – 8: You know a player is incredible when their presence on the field has an immediate impact on the tone of the game. Xavi came on, took control, and everyone breathed a bit easier.