Messi hat trick vs. Malaga as Barca wins (4-1)

“Messi is the footballing northern star, the one that is constantly burning the brightest”

A hat trick puts Messi on top of the La Liga score sheet, and continues to solidify his position as the world’s greatest. He did everything this game, providing mesmerizing passes, world class finishes, a free kick that rattled off the upper corner, and displaying the all around resiliency that defines him.

In the wake of another ugly clasico and more controversy last week, Messi again proves that he is the incorruptible football genius that is so deserving of the praise he receives.

It is hard to even pick out which of his genius goals was best, as all three were made of the skill and deftness that are afforded to only the top pantheon of football players. Even the free kick, which didn’t score, was as close and as impressive as a miss could be, curling way out beyond the wall only to slice back inward and rattle off the post.

Personally I’d have to go with his third goal, as he hurdles several tackles and shows his unique burst of speed and calm, off balanced finishes that have seen him strike the net so many times. It has been a while since he has had one of his trademark slice and dice runs through a defense, and two of them made today a memorable game.

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FC Barcelona – Real Betis (4-2)

Barcelona came back in the second half to put away Betis in an attempt to keep pace with Real Madrid in the race for La Liga.

Man of the Match : Split between Alexis Sanchez and Victor Valdes

Victor made two huge saves, one on a breakaway, in the first half that would have completely changed the game if they scored. Betis with a lead would have packed it back and tried to hold onto the points, and the game could have ended in disaster

Alexis Sanchez made the difference in the win, with a delicate pass into the box to set up the first goal, a pinpoint cross the assist Messi on the second, and a scorcher of his own in the second half. That goal was the kind you love to see from forwards, and much like his strike in the Real Madrid game, he was able to run onto a ball and finish decisively. That individual striking power is what Barca will need if they want to have any chance of catching Real Madrid

 

The very, very ugly : Barcelona’s defense looked disastrous at times. Betis’ forwards were able to run at them into space and create several chances and two goals. It could have easily been five however, and its very disturbing to think how Benzema and Higuian from Real Madrid will do in Wednesdays match if they are given that much space and time. Macherano was in central defense and though he did have some good individual plays, the back 3 as a whole were disorganized, and played just a downright terrible game. Pep has a few days to fix that or the game on Wednesday will be an embarrassment.

 

Highlights of the game here

Barcelona vs Betis 4-0

 

FC Barcelona 4 – Osasuna 0 Match analysis

Barcelona again proved to be a class above the rest with a comfortable win at home thanks to a pair of goals by both Messi and Fabregas. Lets start with what impressed me about the game.

Fabregas steps up. With Messi resting to start the game as expected someone was going to need to be the leader on the field and within 5 minutes it was obvious that Fabregas was the man. His two goals in the first half were decisive and he did excellent to spread the ball around and get his teammates involved. All around excellent performance that should inspire confidence in Barca’s midfield attack for years to come.

Messi gets a standing ovation. Why is this impressive? Because it was in the middle of the game, on the sidelines, and all he did was put on his warmup jersey. In a game that was already won the fans couldn’t wait to see Messi back in action, like they had missed a good friend that was away for the holidays. Says everything about what Messi means to this team and its fans.

Messi needs a new title. Best player in the world just doesn’t cut it anymore. And neither do the detractors who claim his greatness is only based on the great team around him. Anyone watching that game could tell that the second Messi stepped on the pitch in the second half, it was like an entire new team was substituted on. He was picking out players on runs that had been on all game but that no one could deliver. He inspired those quick combinations at the top of the box from which Barca score so many goals. The entire team seemed to step up their tempo and their desire. Barca without Messi is like hip hop without any bass; the swagger is missing. There needs to be a new title invented for a player who can walk onto the best team in the world and elevate their collective play to a new level.

 

Things that concerned me:

Thiago lacks the ability to penetrate defenses. Whether on the dribble or by combining with his teammates, Thiago seems to lack the creativity to break down a defensive front. This is even more abundantly obvious with Iniesta out of the game, who is a specialist at it. Any time he felt pressure he checked the ball down to a safe spot, sometimes even when the break was on, and killed the momentum moving forward. Also failed to finish a clear chance on goal. His defensive abilities are good but he needs to get better with the ball on the attack.

Barca giving away the ball on the back line. The diagonal passes across the box have got to stop. Mascherano almost gave away a sure goal this game, and there were a few more close calls. I appreciate the dedication to possession but if you plan on playing that ball it better be in the rafters where no one can intercept it.

Lack of a legitimate forward. As Sanchez and Pedro struggle to stay fit all season, this seems to be a continuing problem. Thank God Fabregas is having a career year in front of the goal. But all things tend to even out and I find it hard to believe Fabregas will double his 13 goals in the second half of the season. Barcelona is relying on a midfield “goals by committee” approach to supplement Messi, and I just hope it is enough. With a cup match against Real Madrid now looking very likely, I expect Mourinho to take out all the stops and Barca will need to net several times to walk away winners.

 

FC Barcelona 2011- Best Matches and Goals

This image is etched into the minds of every Barca fan, the moment when Abidal lifted the champions league trophy. After a successful liver tumor operation, Abidal was able to return to the field in just two months and help Barcelona win their 3rd champions league trophy in 6 years.

Here are the rest of my top 5 moments of Barcelona’s record breaking 2011 season.

5) Barca sweeps competition for the FIFA world player award with Messi, Iniesta, and Xavi as finalists. All three home grown products of the youth system, Barcelona shows the world how to create footballers.

4) Messi and Iniesta put on a show against Arsenal in the Champions League. A goal only Messi could score as he delicately receives the ball and chips it up over the charging keeper. The magic starts with Iniesta as you watch him carefully juke the defenders out of position with a fake shot and then chip the ball up through the tightest of spaces to land perfectly at Messi’s feet. This goal displays the pinnacle of Barca magic which no other team can produce.

3) David Villa’s wonder-strikes against Real Madrid/Manchester United. A tribute to David Villa, whose emergence in big games and important solo goals gave Barcelona the boost they lacked the previous year in their conquest of all competitions. When a striker can score despite the defense and keeper being in perfect position, as was the case in the Madrid goal, he is invincible, and world class strikers are defined by those kinds of goals. But more remarkably was his ability to check his ego, and be willing to partner with Messi and Pedro, and take less goals in exchange for trophies. Villa would be the leading scorer at any other club he played for, but he was willing to let Messi carry the torch, and this selflessness was what Barca lacked last year, and made the difference in their titles won.

2) Barcelona’s dominance against Real Madrid. The two teams met for a record amount games in all competitions, and Barcelona rose victorious. Most notably was their record breaking 5-0 destruction of Real Madrid in the the league at the Camp Nou, and Messi leading the charge as Barcelona knocked Real out of the Champions League semi finals. It was thrilling to win the League and Champions league, but doing so in the face of Real Madrid made it legendary. Messi continued to rise up during the biggest games, and no better example was his brilliant solo goal against Real Madrid as he continues to outperform his arch rival Ronaldo head to head.

1) Barcelona- European Champions. The holy grail for all European teams, Barca made the finals look easy. Nothing could mean more than these words, coming from possibly the greatest coach of all time Sir Alex Ferguson :

          “They play the right way and they enjoy their football. They do mesmerise you with their passing and we never really did control Messi. In my time as manager, it’s the best team I’ve faced.”

That’s saying something, considering Fergie started managing in 1974 and has faced all the best teams since then with his historic Manchester United sqauds.

For more top moments and photo galleries check out this 2011 photo review of Barca:

http://www.fcbarcelona.com/football/first-team/detail/article/year-in-review-barca-in-12-months

 

COMMENT BELOW AND LET ME KNOW YOUR FAVORITE FROM 2011!!

Barcelona 9 – L’Hospitalet 0 (Game analysis and new record!)

Here are the highlights from this game

After Pedro’s penalty goal, Barca never looked back and tallied 9 goals in a total rout of L’hospitalet, spreading the ball around and allowing several B team players to jump in on the scoring action.

The score sheet as it looked at the end, with newcomers Thiago, Cuenca, and Tello getting a brace. But the game was more than just that.

Important points

Cuenca again proved to be a monster from the winger spot. He had 2 goals, at least 2 assists, was involved in even more goals and created even more chances that others squandered. They had no answer for him on the wing and his quick step and decisive crosses are going to be deadly, especially with people like Messi and Fabregas who are surgeons in tight spaces in the box. Notably though, Cuenca’s amazing performance came on the heels of him refusing to sign a contract extension with Barca, a move to get more money. Fortunately for him (or unfortunately for Barca) it seemed to work, with him proving during this game to be indispensable, and outright disastrous if he were to get swooped up by Madrid. More on Cuenca’s contract situation:

http://www.metro.co.uk/sport/football/885422-isaac-cuencas-contract-stand-off-with-barcelona-alerts-arsenal-and-united

Barcelona held onto yet another record over Madrid

It seems like in the last two years Barca has redefined all of the La Liga records, including most wins, most games without conceding, and last night they held onto the record of most goals in a year with an astounding 170. Barca had the record with 154 in 2010, but this year Real Madrid broke it with 167. That stood for 1 day until Barcelona got the last word, and with one fell swoop crushed the record and reset it at 170. Toma Madridistas!!

FC Barcelona 4- Santos FC 0

These highlights are in Arabic I think but the quality of the video is good. And that is important because this game had some amazing goals and skills.

In this post I just want to briefly discuss the top players, and there will be another about the game tactics, and specifically about Messi vs Neymar.

Messi: Left his mark on all four goals, and his integrity in not diving to the ground payed off on the 3rd and 4th goal (where a certain drama queen RM player would have most certainly been writhing on the ground). Particularly exciting was his run in the 12th minute, his first slaloming run of the game where a burst of speed in a gear no one else has left Santos players appearing to stand still. Up until that point it was even with Santos thinking they had a chance. After that run they realized there were playing against something they had never seen before, and they would be lucky to survive the encounter. And the Santos defense barely got out with their dignity.

Dani Alves: Quite possibly the best game I have ever seen him play. He was Barcelona’s sole winger in a formation of all midfielders, and he totally and completely took over his side of the field. It was none more evident than on two changes of possession where Alves charged 50 yards back towards his own goal to scoop the ball away from several dangerous Santos counter attacks. No other team in the world has their players making such dramatic recovery runs from the attacking third to win it outside their own box. That type of dedication to your teammates only comes form a tight knit unit like Barca. Alves was also excellent on the attack and was the genesis of several chances and goals. Again, maybe his best game ever.

Ganso (Santos): The only player from Santos to impress. He was instrumental in all of their attacks. Considering how little time Santos had on the ball, and the fact that he was able to create 5 or so great chances going forward, speaks volumes. His one touch passing and field vision was excellent as he found the open spaces to send players into with almost no time to think as Barcelona was suffocating the midfield. Neymar and Borges were unable to finish, but that should not take away from this brilliant true ’10’ who I have no doubt will soon be playing for a Championship team.

Fabregas: Much like his clasico performance, I thought he was generally ineffective. He looked slow in possession and was often run down from behind. However, he was again good for a goal, and he scores the scrappy goals/headers that no one else on Barca will take, so he cannot be discounted.

Legendary Barca Performance (4-0) over Santos FC

Legendary Messi performance as well. Barcelona not only won they did it beautifully. They left the world stunned by their beautiful team performance, and this was not lost on their opponents. Santos star Neymar and their coach after the game both echoed that this Barca team is “invincible” and that “today Barcelona taught us how to play football.”

Before I get into anything else, it has to be mentioned that this goal was absolutely unbelievable. Maybe the best Ive seen all year because of the qualities of Messi that it demonstrates, and because it is a goal that (after that first touch on a pass behind him) I believe no other player in the world could have finished. Maybe besides Maradona, in the history of the game.

1) He controls the pass behind him as he streaks into the box. It makes him slow down and turn his weight. The ball is controlled but skips too far ahead of him for a shot.

2) Upon taking a touch like this, 90% of players would have to just concede and hurdle over a charging goalie that scoops it up, as you so often see. That extra special last 10% of players would have tried to get there first and give a little flick over the goalie. Not Messi. In the second view of the goal you can see he kicks in into a gear of acceleration only the Ferrari’s have and charges down the ball.

3) With a yard to spare he reaches it and while fully outstretched performs one of the most unbelievable cuts I’ve ever seen. While charging forward at top speed he actually gets on top of the ball, slices it down so it pops up over the goal, and moves completely square of the direction he is sprinting.

4) So good is his touch that it then allows him to on the next step hurdle the goalie. So in a case where usually a sliding save and a collision are inevitable, the goalie is left completely bewildered as his tackle misses both the ball the little genius. Both sail over him and land on the other side unscathed as his tackle swipes the shadows of each.

A legendary goal of composite skill, athleticism, creativity, and a unique essence of Messi that no one really can comprehend yet. Even Xavi, the best midfielder in the world, says that playing with Messi every day in training is unbelievable, because he does things that no one has ever done on a daily basis. The way he cuts, moves, and understands the game leaves his teammates who known him best in awe every day. No wonder the rest of the world is mesmerized.