A well-deserved lead
Barcelona was comfortably leading 0-3 after 18 minutes played and an electric, determined start. Tito Vilanova's more direct approach was working to perfection, with the Blaugranas moving the ball from side to side at ease and timing runs from deep, enabling players to break the Gallego defense with dangerous breaks into the box.
The Deportivo midfielders were unsuccessfully chasing the ball across the pitch, unable to stop the dominant one-way traffic. A midfield with Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and even Messi was continuously beating the rival defensive lines with quick triangular combinations and stretching the game with conveniently wide openings.
The advantage slipped away
Once again, the Blaugranas found themselves losing their hard-earned advantage due to a combination of poor defending and concentration lapses. Deportivo regained confidence after their first goal, scored from the penalty spot by Pizzi after a controversial refereeing decision against Javier Mascherano.
From then on, Deportivo came back into the game and caused a few problems whenever they stopped the Blaugrana possession, normally breaking with quick counterattacks which always caused danger. Barcelona continued to suffer from set-pieces and struggled to win those all-important second balls.
I honestly can't wait to have Barca's starting four back. Having said that, the fact that Dani Alves, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique and Eric Abidal are all out injured shouldn't be used as an excuse for such a lack of defensive consistency. A club of the calibre of Barcelona should have enough depth in the squad so that eventual player absences aren't so detrimental to overall team performance. An urgent fix is needed.
The Messi-Cesc connection
Fabregas is becoming more important for Tito Vilanova as the season goes by. The Fab Four was immense against Deportivo. His anarchic approach and constant search for direct passes into space really helped make the Barcelona attack flow with increased speed, especially when he was able to connect with Messi during the first half.
As for Messi, words escape me. The moment Barcelona need him, La Pulga always steps up and carries the team through without hesitation. He has now netted 71 times in 2012 and is only five goals away from beating Pele's record of 75 goals in the 1959 calendar year. I have been playing and watching football from the day I was born: Messi is the only player who has managed to leave me speechless, and continues to do so on a weekly basis. What a magician!
Fact: Fabregas has assisted five times in eight La Liga matches this season, with La Pulga a close second with four. In other words, the Cesc-Messi connection has given nine out the 17 Barcelona assists in the competition.
For a neutral, this could have been considered a thoroughly enjoyable match. From a Cule point of view, it was a far too entertaining showing which should have been avoided. That 0-3 lead should have been enough to pack up and fly back to Barcelona. Instead, Deportivo were allowed to come back into the game and Tito Vilanova's team could only breathe easy after the long-awaited final whistle.
On a more positive note, Barcelona managed to dominate an away match despite going down to 10 men for over half an hour and managed to stay at the top of La Liga for yet another week.
Player Ratings (0-10; 10=best)
Victor Valdes – 3 – Should have saved Deportivo's second, the amount of bodies on the way cannot be used as a excuse. Beaten with a sensational free-kick in the third but, again, I can't help but thinking he could have done better, as he was beaten on the post he was actually defending.
Martin Montoya – 6 – Efficient, disciplined and professional display. Dani Alves will have to work increasingly hard to keep this youngster off the starting lineup once he regains his fitness.
Javier Mascherano – 5 – His debatable foul on Riki allowed Deportivo back into the game. As of late, he struggled to defend most high balls into the area and seemed rushed at times. His second yellow card which got him then sent off was also harsh but, as they say, football is football.
Alex Song – 6 – Landing at Barcelona and being constantly played out of position can't be an easy task, as understanding such complex defensive mechanisms would certainly be a challenge for any of us. Despite that fact, he showed total commitment and is on the right track.
Jordi Alba – 6 – Scored the first goal of the night, which was also his first for Barcelona's first team since his return from Valencia. Pushed forward continuously, stretching the Deportivo defense. Unfortunately though, he also scored an inexplicable own goal in the later stages.
Sergio Busquets – 6 – As effective in passing as usual but not always able to stop Deportivo from building dangerous counterattacks from midfield.
Andres Iniesta – 6 – Tried to make things happen from midfield, dictating the pace of the game while Xavi sat on the bench. Not his best performance, but still able to contribute positively.
Cesc Fabregas – 8 – Assisted Jordi Alba for the first, then Messi for the third and fourth. Brilliant. Constant runs from deep. Eager to participate. Great effort!
David Villa – 6 – Earned his second start of the season and performed to a decent standard. Committed to widen the pitch and giving an extra attacking option from the wing. As soon as he continues to get playing time, I'm confident he will get better soon.
Lionel Messi – 9 – Man of the Match - Assisted Tello for the second Blaugrana goal. Showed no mercy when scoring the third with an emphatic finish. Scored the fourth after a superb combination with Cesc and a clinical strike, giving the team much-needed breathing space. Hit the post with a superb freekick. Beat three defenders to secure the Barcelona win with yet another magical run, mesmerising acceleration and a sublime finish. Simply genius!
Cristian Tello – 7 – Scored a blistering goal after zooming past his defender. His powerful, confident runs allowed him to constantly beat his man to the line.
Adriano – 6 – Substituted Villa after 53 minutes. Used as centre-half once again, did the job and helped the team keep the lead.
Pedro – 6 – Substituted Tello after 55 minutes. Failed to hit the target in front of the keeper seconds after coming on, but contributed with generous runs from wide.
Xavi – 6 – Substituted Cesc after 60 minutes. Took control as soon as he came on. A true leader once again.
Tito Vilanova – 6 – Decided to leave Xavi and on-form Pedro out of the starting lineup after the annoying FIFA international break. Reacted quickly when Javier Mascherano was sent off, reorganising the team fairly well given the circumstances.
Have your say
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