Sunday, 23 January 2011

Match Report: Barcelona 3 Racing Santander 0

FT: Barcelona 3 (Pedro 2, Messi (pen) 32, Iniesta 56) Racing Santander 0

Another Saturday night at the Nou Camp, another comfortable win for Barcelona, this time 3-0 over a spirited but limited Racing side.

In the build up to the match the talk had, for once, surrounded the visitors with Indian businessman Ahsan Ali Syed expected to complete his takeover of the Cantabrians within the next week. Mr. Syed may have seen that Racing could do with a few additions to the squad before the end of the January transfer window, but Racing did show a lot of fight - if not a lot of football.

After a first defeat in 28 matches to Real Beits in midweek, Pep Guardiola was able to welcome back most of his star names to the starting XI. Dani Alves was ruled out with a hamstring injury and Gerard Pique was given a rest but otherwise Barca were at full strength.

And it wasn’t long before they were in full flow, the opening goal arriving after only 90 seconds. After more spectacular interplay between Leo Messi and David Villa, the Argentine squared for Pedro to nod into the empty net. In such esteemed company the Canarian doesn’t always get the credit he deserves but the goal was his 16th already this season and he has grown into the perfect foil for Messi and Villa.

With the pattern of the game set it was only thanks to Toño in the Racing goal that Barca weren’t approaching a ‘manita’ by half-time. Villa was wasteful after being played through by Messi before the Racing goalkeeper did exceptionally well to deny Messi, Carlos Puyol and Adriano in quick succession.

The scond goal did arrive just after the half hour mark. Henrique with a clumsy challenge on Villa and Messi stroked home the resulting penalty. The Barca No.10 also showing that all the fame and plaudits haven’t allowed him to forget his roots as he lifted his shirt to reveal a ‘happy birthday mum’ message.

Toño was then on hand to deny Messi again and Villa fired over before Racing were nearly handed a lifeline just before half-time. Adrian’s powerful header turned away by Victor Valdes.

In the second-half Miguel Angel Portugal’s men showed a great deal of desire and hard-work to keep at Barca and try to repel the waves upon waves of attack but in truth they lacked any real threat.

Andres Iniesta made it 3-0 on 56 minutes following another wonderful team move. Villa and Messi again combining before El Guaje’s cross was beautifully back-heeled by Pedro for Iniesta to fire home. It was the World Cup winner’s seventh league goal of the season, one more than he has ever previously managed in one term.

With the game comfortably won Guardiola was able to give a rest to some of his stars. Xavi and Pedro were replaced by Seydou Keita and Bojan whilst Pique had been introduced at half-time to give captain Puyol a rest.

It remains to be seen whether last Wednesday’s defeat in Seville is the worst thing that could have happened for Barcelona’s upcoming opponents. Any chance of complacency slipping in having been wiped away by the Segunda league leaders who showed that when the Champions aren’t 100% focused they are certainly not invincable.

However, in this form they are very close to it. Racing battled bravely but never threatened to cause an upset. Portugal, and hopefully his new boss, will realise that the Nou Camp is not where Racing’s season will be defined. They remain four points above the relegation zone.

Barcelona extend their lead over Real Madrid at the top to seven points ahead of Mallorca’s visit to the Bernabeu tommorrow.

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