The Birthday Present: Barcelona 4 – 0 Rayo Vallecano Match ReviewBy: Yazan | November 30th, 2011
Rayo Vallecano has always been a tough fixture for us in the past. Meeting such tricky opposition so soon after dropping 3 points away to Getafe, giving Real Madrid and their fans a reason to celebrate at this stage of the season, made it even harder.
Luckily however, when there’s Barcelona, there’s a way, and we have just the right guys to point us in the right direction.
Pep decided to go for a 3-4-3 again with: VV – Mascherano – Pique – Abidal – Alves – Keita – Xavi – Iniesta – Alexis – Messi – Villa all starting, with Puyol, Busquets, Pedro, Cesc, Adriano, Thiago, & Maxwell on the bench. I for one expected Busquets to start, considering himself and Pique running on thin ice with 4 yellow cards each; an extra yellow will see both players suspended for one game. With El Clasico straight after Levante, this would be the perfect time to pick these bookings (because we just can’t avoid getting carded).
The game kicked off and Rayo Vallecano were showing some good character. Contrary to public belief, Rayo weren’t going to park the bus, train, concord, and a bicycle in-front of goal, they were actually trying to match Barcelona’s play, getting into their faces and even attacking VV’s goal a couple of times. Brave as they were, Iniesta was having non of it. With 3 minutes gone, Iniesta attempted a shot from the middle of the pitch (yes Don Iniesta is, well a Don) which Rayo’s keeper Cobeno barely sent to a corner kick.
Barcelona were slowly settling down. Iniesta looked really fired up having missed the Milan and Getafe games due to injury with Messi showing us some nifty mazy runs. Rayo had a great chance to score the opener, but there erratic finishing let them down; Lass in particular was guilty of this. Iniesta tried his luck again from outside the area on the 15th min but saw his shot go wide. With both Alexis and Alves getting into each other’s way on the right, Pep decided to move Alexis to the left and a Villa to the center. This immediately brought more punch to our attack as Alexis was beginning to cause havoc down the left flank. On the 27th min, Messi and Xavi combined brilliantly before Xavi sent a nice through ball towards Alexis in the penalty area. From the left side of goal, Sanchez then decided to go inside, stop, and then send a beautiful curling shot towards the other post. A brilliant piece of skill by “El Neno Maravilla” (The Wonder Boy).
Messi almost scored the second goal of night 2 minutes later, but he managed to shot at the side netting. Athough Iniesta was getting some rough treatment from Rayo’s players (believe me the whole neighborhood knew exactly how I felt about them tackles), he was everywhere on the pitch getting pass players at well controlling the match with his our captain for the night Mr. Xavi maestro. On the 41nd min Messi sent a beautiful weighted cross towards Xavi in Rayo’s penalty area. What happened next was something of an argument; did Xavi produce on of the best back-heel chip/assist ever seen, or was it a fluk? See my thoughts below for that answer. What is certain was Alexis hunger to get to the ball and score his and Barca’s second of the night.
All our nerves were definitely settled, at least temporarily, but Barca were going to make sure of it. Pique, who was in a rather attacking mode, passed the ball to Alves in the box. Unselfishly, after being one-on-one with Cobeno, Alves squared the ball for Villa to finish. Villa accepted his friend’s request and scored Barca’s third.
The first half ended and I switched to the Napoli – Juventus game (a cracker) before waving goodbye and return to the second half kick-off. Rayo made their first change of the match, introducing Barca’s hate figure ex-Espanyol Raul Tamudo. Soon after his introduction (4 min to be exact), Messi charged down the right hand side to score the fourth goal of the night. Although he initially got the ball from Alves, it was a brilliant solo effort from Messi, charging down from the middle of pitch, beating defenders and Cobeno to slide the ball with his right foot towards the opposite post.
After his goal, Villa looked full of confidence and was really eager to add to his goal tally. He was brought down in the box by Arribas, but Barca never got the call (as usual). Not to be outdone, Villa continued his goal hunt with a cracking flick to take the high ball away from the defender and facing Cobeno one-on-one. With the ball bouncing, Villa attempted a lovely chip over the keeper that landed on the top of the net. A brilliant effort by Villa and very unlucky not to score.
The game was definitely over by now. Pep sent in first Thiago then Cesc for Iniesta and Xavi, rightly so with El Clasico around the corner. Credit to the substitutes, it seemed a seamless change, as Barca continued from where the duo stopped. Cesc, Messi, and even Pique getting their old connection on the pitch. Messi produced a moment of pure genius (a move similar to Bergkamp’s goal against Newcastle in 2001 2002, not sure), with one touch to lift the ball infront of Piti followed by a run across the penalty box, it looked distant for the bottom right corner, but it went agonizingly wide.
Although Alexis was having a brilliant game, Pep decided to give him a rest and introduced Adriano instead. Minutes later, Rayo had a genuine opportunity to score a consolation. Valdes saved an initial shot from Michu but couldn’t handle the ball properly. VV then had to dive for the rebound to prevent the on-rushing Tamudo from scoring. Tamudo was rightly flagged off-side, but not before colliding his knee to VV’s head.
With 3 minutes to go, Pique decided it was a good time to get his 5th yellow card of the season. He wasted time taking a free-kick and the referee had to give him a yellow, suspending him from the Levante game. 2 minutes later, after a nice chip from Cesc, Pique should have scored, but fell down after a good tackle from Cobeno. I have never seen a player jump up on his feet as fast as Pique did as he could have got a second yellow card for simulation. The referee blew his whistle moment later, ending the game and preserving Barca’s 11 home game clean sheets – 34 goals to 0.
1) In a 3-4-3, playing both Alexis and Alves on the same wing is wrong. In that formation, I think Alexis’s best position is on the left, with Villa playing in the center. Alexis and Alves kept getting into each other way before Pep decided to switch him to the left; 2 goals and some nice dribbles.
2) Although Villa looked more confident after his goal, he also seemed to be in a good mood early on. His ball control and interplay were very good. It’s a pity he didn’t manage to add his 2nd as it would have done wonders to his confidence ahead of El Clasico.
3) Messi have had some strange games recently. I don’t know if he’s preserving his energy, but he always seems to be the last one arriving to the box. In one instance, he was right beside Keita (our DM for the night) when Alves and Alexis were trying to find someone in the box. He seemed a bit off color to me, but still managed to score a goal, do some trademark runs, and pull off one hell of a trick.
4) Iniesta is back! Let’s hope he can stay injury free until the end of the year. He was our missing link during the Getafe game. We need him as match fit as possible for El Clasico.
5) Alexis scored his second goal after the the ball fell graciously for him. It wasn’t an assist from Xavi (sorry Mr. Maestro). I think what Xavi was trying to do is to flick the ball over himself and into his path the same way he did with the first goal he scored against RM last year (ahhhh good times). It was a freak act of nature and physics that the ball fell so nicely into Alexis’s path.
6) Why on earth did Pique do that? Getting his 5th yellow card? Had he made a tackle on a player and got his 5 yellow card of the season, no one would have a problem. But to deliberately delay play to get your 5th? That’s just wrong. I hope Pep’s reaction was genuine, because I really didn’t like that at all.
VV – 7: Not the most eventful match, but a clean sheet none the less.
Masch – 8: Question? Do we still consider him a midfielder? He was brilliant yesterday with some nice challenges on the ball. Argentina could do with him as a CB.
Pique – 5: Gets such a low rating because I wasn’t amused at all with his free-kick delay! Other than that, had a solid game defensively and perhaps should have scored late in the game if he wasn’t thinking of getting sent off. Idiot!
Abidal – 6.5: Solid no nonsense game from Abidal. Didn’t get forward too often, but didn’t have too either.
Alves – 7: A very attacking game from Alves, but left much to be desired. I think he needs to re-establish his connection with Xavi as we was overlooked a coupe of times. Would have liked to see him track back, being an attacking wing back, but his unselfish assist for Villa will take him off the hook this time around.
Xavi – 7.5: A brilliant game from our captain who has been rather more welling to go forward these days. An assist and an overall excellent performance as usual.
Keita – 7: A solid game from Keita. Our midfield is just not the same when Busquets is not playing. A lose a certain level of fluidity when he’s not there. Having said that, Keita kept things simple and did his job brilliantly.
Iniesta – 7.5: Suffered some rough treatment from Rayo’s players but kept going. His link-up with Xavi, and most importantly his directness in play are very valuable to us. We’ll need him at his best to catch RM.
Alexis – 8.5 (MOTM): 2 goals and some nice dribbles here and there, what else can you ask for? His communication with his team mates appears to be improving, and Pep might have a serious dilemma deciding his starting attackers in El Clasico.
Messi – 7.5: Not his usual tremendous best when compared to his very very high standards. But scored a goal and kept us on our toes every time he started one of his runs.
Villa – 7.5: I think Villa is returning to his best again. There was some glimpses of his old self during the Getafe game that might have gone unnoticed. A very good all round performance with one goal and a very unlucky chip for a second.
Cesc – 6.5: Slotted in perfectly for Xavi, and his link-up with Messi and Pique was joyful to watch.
Thiago – 6: Thiago was a bit wasteful yesterday. He keeps making these unnecessary touches and ends up losing the ball. Although he is improving and learning match by match, he still could have done much better yesterday.
Adriano – 5: Couldn’t tell if he was playing or not. And apparently he has injured himself again. He will be about for a week. And I was worried about Cesc’s injury record?! Oh well.
So what do you guys think? Share your thoughts with us below.