Mallorca 2 – 4 Barcelona: All Hail King LeoBy: kelsey | November 11th, 2012
Mallorca was no match for Leo and the Barca boys on a night in which Leo bagged a brace and surpassed Pele’s record for goals scored in a calendar year. Isn’t it wonderful to watch a legend in his prime? There are simply not enough accolades to pay Messi for what he is accomplishing.
Now in terms of the match, Barca did what Barca’s been doing all season – made things interesting before securing the victory. After going three up before the break, it looked as though this match would be a straightforward affair. Not so much. Defensive blunders and sleepy second half play resulted in two quick goals for Mallorca, and suddenly the seemingly insurmountable lead appeared fragile. Not to worry though, Barca reestablished the rhythm and possession that marked the first half, and Messi eventually put away his second of the night, which gave the team the cushion they needed to see the game through and come away with a victory.
The night also marked the return of Mr. Moc Moc who was out recovering from his ankle injury much longer than initially expected. Along side Pique, Tito employed Masch, Alba and Dani Alves in the back protecting Valdes’ goal. Xavi, Cesc, and Busi made up the midfield while Iniesta rested after a busy couple weeks. Tello, Messi, and Villa started up front. Pinto, Montoya, Song, Bartra, Pedro, and Alexis kept Iniesta company on the bench. On the other end, Mallorca went with: Aouate; Ximo, Geromel, Conceiao, Bigas; Nsue, Pina, Marti, Pereira; Victor and Hemed.
Nothing of any great significance happened in the first 25 minutes. Barca maintained possession in the Mallorca half as home side defended deep, but Barca couldn’t get anything going in the box, and didn’t create any good chances on offense. Likewise, Barcelona’s corners were their usual sad affair ending nowhere near net. When will Puyi and his flying head of hair ever come back? On the other end, Mallorca went on the break once, but couldn’t produce anything that would bother VV.
Then the game started to open up a bit. VV made a great save blocking a low header off a set piece to deny Mallorca. Villa and Tello linked up on the other end with Villa nearly releasing Tello in a one on one with a lovely through ball but Tello was caught just slightly offside. Cesc especially, along with Messi, and Xavi, played some nice give and goes that got the attack going. To stop one of his give and goes with Messi a few yards outside the box, a defender was forced to pull Fab down. Both Messi and Xavi lined up to take the free kick with the latter sending a brilliant dipping strike above the wall and into the corner of the net. 1-0 Barca thanks to the Maestro.
Towards the end of the half it was nearly all one way traffic pointed at the Mallorca net. Villa played an excellent dummy to give Dani an open look at net though he couldn’t get the shot off fast enough. Cesc got into the action sending one high and wide. Tello nearly found an unmarked Villa in front the net, but a defender did well to send the cross out for a corner. Masch had an injury scare on the other end as an attacker came down on him, but he was able to shrug it off and play on thankfully. Finally Messi added to the tally with just a few minutes left in the half. While having an otherwise quiet night by his standards likely due to the man marking of about half the Mallorca defense on him, Messi was able to create space for himself by going around two defenders and found a pathway to send a low shot on target. Ball bounced toward the keeper and he wasn’t able to hang onto it as it skidded into the back of the net. Keeper error gave Messi his 75th of the calendar year, and gave Barca a 2-0 lead.
Minutes later, Barca threatened again with Messi sending a pass out wide to Tello. Likely expecting Tello to look to pass it into the box, as he had been doing with success all night, the defenders laid off him a bit at the top of the box. Tello used the space, and with a couple touches brought it toward the center, and sent a stinging low shot into the far corner of the net. 3-0 Barca at the half.
At the start of the second half, Barca took their foot off the gas pedal and paid for their complacency. Mallorca began pressing higher and was rewarded for their efforts with Barca turnovers including one leading to Mallorca’s first goal of the game. Rather than putting the ball out of play on the sideline, Masch tried to play it to a teammate, but instead lost the ball deep in Barca’s third. With Barca’s defense out of position, Mallorca was able to capitalize sending the ball to an unmarked man in the middle of the box who calmly put it into the net. Minutes later, Barca again found Mallorca in their third and when Busi went to deflect a shot in the box, the ball bounced off his hand held away from his body. The ref rightfully awarded Mallorca a penalty. Victor guessed the wrong way and Mallorca cut Barca’s lead to one.
In an effort to reassert control over the game, Tito brought Alexis in for a somewhat disgruntled looking Villa, and it paid off minutes later as Alexis provided a vital assist to a great Messi goal. Alves chipped the ball over the top of the defensive line to Alexis on the far side of the box. Alexis chested it down to Messi who smashed it into the upper corner of the net. Mallorca cried for an offside call against Alexis, but none was forthcoming as Alexis was onside when Dani passed it to him and was judged not to have interfered with the play when Messi took the shot. 4-2 Barca with less than a third of the game left to play.
The game ended in a similar fashion to how it began as Barca largely maintained possession and Mallorca hardly threatened. Messi and Alexis did well linking up and Messi came very close to bagging a third. Mallorca had another chance or two, but Barca’s defense was up to the challenge. In the end, Barca walked away with an important league victory claiming a very impressive 31 out of a possible 33 points in their first 11 games. And now many of the boys are off representing their national sides before next weekend’s fixture at the Camp Nou. Let’s hope everyone comes back healthy and happy! Visca Barca!
Valdes – 7: made a great save early in the game, and generally seemed much more like his old self. Didn’t have any chance on the first goal nor much of one on the penalty; hopefully the defense can help him get some more clean sheets this season as the consistent defensive blunders have definitely been Barca’s Achilles heel.
Alba – 7: has really assimilated into the Barca side well providing good speed up the side, quick passes and able defending.
Masch – 5: Meh, his performances this season really haven’t matched last season’s showings and tonight was no exception. His poor giveaway led to Mallorca’s first goal; he otherwise he did an okay job at the back though nothing really to write home about.
Pique – 8: Hooray! He’s back! Between the defensive headers, and composure clearing balls out, Pique showed why he was sorely missed. Moc moc.
Alves – 7.5: energetic night for Dani doing a good job covering the entire right flank showing off his pace and positioning by getting very involved on the attack though his crosses and final balls could’ve been better.
Busi – 7.5: somewhat unlucky with the handball called penalty, but otherwise had a solid performance on both ends of the field showing why he’s considered one of the best at his position.
Cesc – 8: really coming into his own at Barca, with good crosses, great runs and good link up play especially with Messi. Bedhead Cesc continues to impress.
Xavi – 8.5: El Maestro controlled the tempo throughout the game and scored a wonderful freekick. Always a joy to watch.
Messi – 9: MOTM. Quiet in the first and still bagged a goal; explosive in the second with another goal and created numerous other chances. Magic.
Villa – 6.5: Quiet night for Villa; did not see a lot of the ball but his movement was good and he was involved in a couple nice chances in the first half.
Tello – 8.5: great performance from the youngster capped off by a fabulous goal at the end of the first half. Put his pace to use providing a good outlet on the wing, played intelligently, and getting better defending. Overall very good night for Tello.
Alexis – 7.5: Alexis actually showed us what he was capable of tonight. Hopefully it will be a confidence booster going forward.
Bartra – 6.5: Solid performance during the time he was on the pitch tonight. Good to see him continuing to get minutes.
Montoya – N/A: Entered too late to leave much of an impression really.