Copa del Rey Review: Cordoba 0, FC Barcelona 2, Or, Ugly Yields Results Too!By: Ade C. | December 13th, 2012
Barça avoided a Cup upset with a neat result at the Nuevo Arcángel stadium in front of second-division Córdoba, setting up a reasonably easy return leg at the Camp Nou in January… but it wasn’t pretty.
Tito deployed a Champions League worthy starting XI (Pinto, Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Jordi Alba, Song, Xavi, Thiago, Pedro, Messi and Villa), but it was Córdoba who started out strongest, with a couple of good chances and set pieces within the first ten minutes.
Of course, Barça being Barça, they soon retaliated: Thiago hit the crossbar with a lovely shot, and the Córdoba goal was still shaking when MVP combined to take the rebound and give Messi his first goal of the evening.
Incredible pass by Pedro, unselfish assist by Villa, slightly cocky finish by Messi. What more could you ask for?
Well, some defending could have been nice. Minutes after Messi opened the scoreline, Córdoba had a goal disallowed for offside (correct, but very narrowly so) and a collection of set-pieces that would make any serious set-piece collector pale with envy. In fact, Córdoba had all the best chances for the rest of the first half; Barça was having trouble stringing two passes together, let alone trying to do something with them.
I’m going to be mean and place the blame of this at Alex Song’s feet. He had a very poor first half, losing the ball, misplacing passes, and not helping a jot at moving Barça’s game forwards. With Xavi not having the best of nights (he performs better on manicured pitches watered with unicorn tears instead of the layer cake of mud and mold that was the pitch at the Arcángel) and Thiago looking classy but not linking up much, the Barça midfield was not up to much… and we all know that, without a working midfield, all that Barça can do is pray to Messi and hope not to concede.
But Song was a little better in the second half. The Barça midfield looked a little more organised. Chances started to crop up… and our forwards did bugger all with them. Pedrito missed two clear opportunities, and Villa (maybe reeling from what for a minute looked like a thigh injury) had trouble receiving passes, let alone doing something about them. Like Ramzi said, “it’s like Messi sucks the finishing vibes out of any forward who partners him, then he uses it as a yeast and increases it exponentially”.
Tito gave up on the ‘Get Pedro To Score’ platform and brought Alexis in, which did nothing for the ‘Get People Other Than Messi To Score (No, Not The Left-Back)’ movement, but meant that the Chilean had a hand in Messi’s second of the evening:
Defensive wobbliness? Check. Messi goals? Check. Wait, what’s the missing ingredient for a Barça match? Oh, right, injuries! Jordi Alba gave us a scare after a bad foul, and not long after, Dani Alves had to be subbed out for Montoya so that the team doctors could frown at his thigh on the bench. Luckily, they weren’t serious injuries and today everyone’s doing recovery training as usual.
Tello was the last to come in, getting ten minutes in Villa’s place, but other than a couple of remarkably awful crosses, he didn’t do anything exciting. The match died in the chaotic way it had started, with the result going Barça’s way even if the game didn’t.
Pinto: 8,5. Some really good saves, particularly at the start of the match, and more work than Valdés does in two months.
Alves: 6. Meh. Not terribly bad, but he’s not justifying being ahead of Adriano on the starting XI.
Piqué: 8,5. Yes. A shaky first few minutes, but by the end of the match, Piqué was actually defending! And well! Mostly!
Mascherano: 7,5. Not back to full form. I know I keep saying this, but it’s true. I have hope, though.
Jordi Alba: 8,5. Lively, efficient, unafraid in spite of how much he got fouled. I’m getting myself a squirrel plushie for Christmas!
Song: 5,5. The second half somewhat redeems him, but the only thing Song did really well last night was making me miss Busquets.
Xavi: 7,5. The pitch was giving him trouble, and so was not having a reliable partner at his back, but our Maestro did what he could.
Thiago: 7,5. On the one hand, some lovely skills. On the other, I feel he didn’t contribute as much to the team and to Xavi’s retirement fund as I expected of him.
Villa: 6. Well… he was less awful than last time. And his assist to Messi was good. Tito said after the match that Villa had looked like the player he was before his injury, but no, I definitely remember him being better than this.
Messi: 8. Can’t really not give him a good score when he’s the reason we keep winning even crappy matches like this one, can I?
Pedro: 6. Does he need to score? Is that it? Is the lack of goals sapping his powers like kryptonite? Where’s the Roadrunner of old?
Alexis (in for Pedro): 7. He assisted Messi and worked hard, but he’s lacking focus and, of course, goals.
Montoya and Tello didn’t have enough of an impact on the match to merit a rating.
In other, better, news, today the club announced two renewals: one is Cristian Tello, who will on Monday sign a contract extension until 2016 (with a lowly €10 million buy-out clause) and finally become a first-team player. The other is Xavi’s; in his press conference today, he said that his own contract extension until 2016 is ‘almost done’ and that he’s looking forwards to finishing his career at Barça.
And now, let’s focus again on La Liga: Barça meet Madrid’s best (?) team on the weekend to cement their position on top of La Liga… or not!
Some Related Barcelona Posts:
- Copa del Rey review: Deportivo Alavés 0, FC Barcelona 3, Or, A Little Treat
- La Liga Review: FC Barcelona 3, Celta de Vigo 1… Ghostbusters!