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Messi masterclass picks Pucela apart




Clément Lenglet 2’; Arturo Vidal 29’; Lionel Messi 34’, 75’, Luis Suárez 77’


Kiko Olivas 15’

Real Valladolid were outclassed by a clinical Barcelona side. The Catalans went ahead early through Clément Lenglet and, although Kiko Olivas levelled the match, Pucela fell victim to a Lionel Messi masterclass as he added a double and Luis Suárez completed the rout.

Having been idle during last weekend’s fixtures as a result of their match against Real Madrid being postponed, Barcelona had ten days to prepare for this contest. Ernesto Valverde made two changes to the eleven who took the field against Slavia Prague in the Czech Republic in last Wednesday’s Champions League clash which his side won 2-1.

Real Valladolid coach Sergio González adapted his line-up with a rudimentary 5-3-2 formation, in a change to the regular 4-4-2 set-up. Coming off a 2-0 win at home to Eibar on Saturday, Mohammed Salisu – who scored his first professional goal in that match – dropped to the bench. Joaquín moved from his temporary home in midfield back to defence to partner with Kiko Olivas and Fede Barba, the latter making his first league start for the blanquivioletas. Pedro Porro returned to the squad and immediately made the starting line-up as right wing-back in a five-man midfield with Nacho playing the same role on the left. Between them, Anuar made his first La Liga start of the year and he joined regulars Míchel and Óscar Plano. In a surprising move, Waldo was preferred ahead of Enes Ünal to act as strike partner to Sergi Guardiola.

With this extra time, Barcelona looked far sharper from the outset. They made a predictably good start, retaining possession from the kick-off as is so often their way. Frenkie De Jong forced a corner from Joaquín which paved the way to the home side taking a second-minute lead. Lionel Messi played it short and found himself back in possession after a series of neat passes. He swung in a cross from the left aimed at Luis Suárez, but Kiko Olivas headed it away as far as Sergi Guardiola. The Real Valladolid forward attempted to clear from inside the box but succeeded only in hitting it off Joaquín. Barcelona defender Clément Lenglet was the fortunate recipient of the deflected clearance and he struck the ball goalward. Pucela ‘keeper Jordi Masip was wrongfooted by a slight touch off Fede Barba on the way through and the ball crashed off the underside of his crossbar and into the net.

The response from the visitors was almost instantaneous. Pedro Porro made good ground down the right flank and beat Jordi Alba before sending in a cross. It was gathered in by Sergi Guardiola, who managed to turn and fire a shot, but Gerard Piqué blocked it.

Messi had a chance with a free kick in a good position but hit his effort straight at ex-teammate Masip. Just two minutes later, there was a goal, but it was at the other end and it went to Sergio’s men. Míchel swung a freekick in from the left and Barcelona goalkeeper Marc Andre Ter Stegen made a mess of punching the ball away in a crowded box, instead he flapped at it and sent the ball into Kiko Olivas’s chest. The Real Valladolid defender must have known very little about it but wheeled away in delighted as the ball rolled off him and over the line to level the scores on the quarter-hour mark.

Kiko Olivas receives the plaudits from his teammates after his equaliser (Image: La Liga)

Valverde’s side looked momentarily stunned to have been pegged back after such a bright start and their opponents harangued them at every opportunity. Arturo Vidal, so often a substitute, looked to take advantage of his starting role and he was unlucky not to connect with De Jong. However, three minutes after that Vidal was in luck. Having picked up the ball in midfield, he played it onto Messi and intelligently continued his run, splitting the centre backs. Messi played a beautiful ball over the top and Vidal stretched every sinew in his body to extend and touch the ball past Masip with his toe.

Real Valladolid’s night got worse with an injury to Nacho shortly after half an hour. The industrious wing-back pulled up with what looked like a hamstring pull and was unable to continue. This brought about the introduction of Salisu and forced the visitors into a change of personnel to accommodate the adjustment. Salisu joined Kiko Olivas and Joaquín at the back and Fede Barba pushed up to take Nacho’s place at left wing-back.

However, just moments after the switch, Barcelona went further ahead. Again, Messi lined up a free-kick; this time it was in a central-right position ten yards outside the penalty area. Having put his first attempt straight at Masip, the little Argentine made no mistake with his second try and placed the ball with curl and pace out of the ‘keeper’s reach in the top right of the net.

An inspired freekick from Lionel Messi gave Barcelona a two-goal cushion (Image: Irish Times)

With the bulk of possession by a large majority, and a two-goal lead to show for it, the teams headed in at halftime with the home side firmly in control.

Sergio’s side emerged after the break with a new look to the formation, reverting to the more traditional 4-4-2 they had adopted for most of the play this season. Fede Barba, Salisu, Kiko Olivas and Pedro Porro formed the back four, allowing Joaquín to return to midfield alongside Anuar, Míchel and Óscar Plano. Waldo and Sergi Guardiola continued to lead the line for Pucela. Anuar made way for Pablo Hervías less than ten minutes after the restart having had a quiet first start of the season. This saw Óscar Plano switch flanks to play on the left.

Salisu and Masip proved their worth as they stifled an early Barça attack. Joaquín lost possession in midfield to De Jong who orchestrated a swift counterattack. The young Dutchman rolled the ball to Messi who, in turn, slid a pass to Ansu Fati. The winger, playing two days short of his 17th birthday, took a shot which Masip repelled with his foot before the Real Valladolid defender bravely headed the rebound behind for a corner kick.

The introduction of Hervías proved a positive move for the visitors as they looked to reduce the arrears. He attacked down the right touchline and threaded a neat ball to Óscar Plano. The midfielder managed to pivot cleverly and get a shot away only to see it blocked by Lenglet. There then followed two more forays on the far flank by Hervías, but with no end product to benefit the visitors.

Both managers made changes to their sides over the following minutes. De Jong exited to warm applause and Ivan Rakitic replaced him. Youth-team graduate Fati made way for summer signing Antoine Griezmann who cost the Catalans over £100 million following a prolonged tug-of-war with Atlético which began the previous season. On the other bench, striker Enes Ünal came on to add an attacking threat when he replaced Óscar Plano.

The home side stepped up a gear in pursuit of more goals, unsatisfied with their two-goal advantage, and Luis Suárez was the next to get the ball over the line but immediately the flag went up to signal offside. It was the briefest of respites as, five minutes further on, Messi got his second of the match. Rakitic was the provider, serving up an incisive pass for the captain who timed his run to perfection and stroked the ball first time to beat Masip. Less than 120 seconds afterwards, Suárez got in on the act to complete the rout. He collected the ball in midfield, channelled the ball to Messi on the right and received a great pass in return which allowed him to finish first-time past the visiting goalkeeper.

Lionel Messi was the difference in the match with two goals and an assist (Image: La Liga)

Pucela were firmly beaten. Not even a late free-kick from Pablo Hervías – who had scored a stunner at home to Osasuna in Round 4 from roughly the same position – could trouble Ter Stegen as it sailed wide left and the reigning champions were worthy winners of the contest.

It was a cruel blow for Pucela as their five-match unbeaten run came to a crashing halt, but the score line was perhaps flattering to the hosts who did not have it all their own way. Small errors, but more so the presence of the one of the finest players to ever grace a football pitch, were the main catalysts for the undoing of a disciplined side who must know dust themselves off to welcome newly promoted Real Mallorca to the José Zorrilla on Sunday.

BARCELONA (4-3-3): Marc-Andre Ter Stegen; Jordi Alba (Sergi Roberto 78’), Clément Lenglet, Gerard Piqué, Nélson Semedo, Frenkie De Jong (Ivan Rakitic 60’), Sergio Busquets, Arturo Vidal, Ansu Fati (Antoine Griezmann 62’), Luis Suárez, Lionel Messi (Capt.).

Substitutes unused: Neto; Jean-Clair Todibo, Carles Aleñá, Carles Pérez.

REAL VALLADOLID (3-5-2): Jordi Masip; Fede Barba, Kiko Olivas, Joaquín, Nacho (Mohammed Salisu 33’), Anuar (Pablo Hervías 53’), Míchel (Capt.), Pedro Porro, Óscar Plano (Enes Ünal 66’), Sergi Guardiola, Waldo.

Substitutes unused: Andriy Lunin; Antoñito, Jorge De Frutos, Rubén Alcaraz.

Referee: Javier Alberola Rojas

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