Saturday, 5 March 2011

Match Report: Barcelona 1 Real Zaragoza 0

Barcelona maintained their 100% record at home in La Liga since October with a 1-0 win over an extremely cautious Real Zaragoza.

Seydou Keita got the solitary goal in what was – Pep Guardiola’s back pain apart – an extremely comfortable evening for the hosts.

Guardiola had decided to give some of his preferred starting eleven a rest with the Champions League return against Arsenal coming on Tuesday night. Sergio Busquets, Eric Abidal, Andres Iniesta and David Villa all left out from the start, although the latter three did make an appearance from the bench.

Javier Aguirre opted for a 5-4-1 that would have made Miguel Angel Lotina proud, however, at times the Zaragoza midfield was so deep it appeared more like a 9-1, Florent Sinima Pongolle so isolated up front he was left in a different postcode from his teammates.

Barcelona dominated possession throughout and but for Toni Doblas in the visitors’ goal they could have been out of sight by half-time. The former Betis man denying Pedro, Bojan and Leo Messi before Keita had a goal ruled out for offside, replays showing the decision was extremely tight.

The Malian midfielder did eventually put Barca ahead two minutes before half-time following fantastic play from Messi in the build up. Keita is often overlooked when questions are raised about the depth of Barcelona’s squad but despite more limited opportunities this term his drive and goal-scoring threat has again proved invaluable.

The second period followed much the same pattern, although Zaragoza offered slightly more on the counter-attack. Nicolas Bertolo signalling their more attacking intent with their first effort of the game on 51 minutes.

The hosts were soon back on the attack and Ander Herrera had to clear off the line from a Gerard Pique header.

Victor Valdes then had to look alive on his return to action to deny Pongolle, racing out to block the French striker’s effort after an excellent long ball from Ander had set him free behind the Barca defence.

Doblas was then on hand to deny Bojan again with a fine one-handed save. It was to prove the youngster’s final involvement as Guardiola introduced Villa in an attempt to secure the game.

Villa made an instant impact in behind the Zaragoza defence but for once his deadly finishing touch deserted him. Firstly, he shot straight at Doblas and then, after the goalkeeper had spilled a Maxwell effort, blazed wildly over.

However, it wasn’t to matter as Barca saw out the game with ease to move 10 points clear of Real Madrid who play Racing Santander tomorrow. Aguirre’s men remain just two points above the relegation zone.

FT: Barcelona 1 (Keita 43) – Real Zaragoza 0

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