Deportivo La Coruña vs. Barcelona: 10 Points of Discussion from the Shootout
Well, that went about as expected.
If you expected nine goals in Barcelona's match against Deportivo, good for you. If you expected that Deportivo would score four goals against Tito Vilanova's men, you're psychic.
If you thought that the Galicians would have less possession against the Catalans than Real Madrid but would score double the goals, I hope you put money on it.
Lionel Messi was absolutely surreal, Pizzi and Riki made some new fans, and Cesc Fabregas had a career day. And that was just in the first half!
Now that we have had time to take a breath and reflect on the match that saw nine goals scored, let's review what we learned in Coruna.
Match of the Season
If you were unable to watch this match or just chose not to because it looked like an easy win on paper for Barcelona, shame on you.
Before the match began at Riazor, fans were treated to a back-and forth match between Valencia and Athletic Bilbao that saw Aduriz score two against his former team before Los Che stole a late winner.
The Deportivo match was doomed to disappoint following such an exciting match.
After the final whistle blew in A Coruña, most fans had already forgotten about the first match as Saturday's last match never gave us a moment's peace.
We had a hat trick, three goals in the first 20 minutes, an epic comeback, a red card, another comeback, incredible fan atmosphere, still another comeback, an exquisite free kick, bad refereeing and some awful defending.
This match did not always have the best football, but fans and neutrals alike were unable to peel themselves away from what may be the best match we see all season in Spain.
Riki Pivotal, Maybe Even Beyond This Match
Most Barcelona fans will be hating him over the next week, but we have to credit Riki for the huge role he played in this match.
He took three shots, set up three chances and got in great position all over the pitch, but his biggest impact came against Javier Mascherano.
It started at around 25 minutes when the 32-year-old took a dive over Mascherano just outside the box. There was contact off the ball, but only because Riki fell over the defender.
Despite being outside the box, the ref awarded a penalty which Pizzi coolly finished. The center-back was given his first yellow.
At the time, it was just one goal to Barcelona's three, so it wasn't a big deal. But that wasn't the last time Riki would trouble Mascherano.
Just before the 50th minute, Riki took an elbow to the face from the Argentinian and was sent to the ground. The hit looked accidental, but it was still deemed worthy of a card by the referee.
Mascherano was sent packing and will now miss Barcelona's next match against Rayo Vallecano. That could prove a blessing in disguise for Marc Bartra, even if Pique is healthy enough to start.
Man of the Match
As if he needed to break any more records to convince people that he is the best player alive right now, Messi is now beating records that his great rival set just last year.
It is only October, but Messi has already broken Ronaldo's (44 Liga goals in 2012) record for most Liga goals in a calendar year.
His hat trick against Deportivo put him at 44 league goals in 2012, one better than CR7's tally from last year.
It was rumored that the Argentinian would be rested against Deportivo, but fans are thankful he was not.
He flew home immediately after the game to be with his newborn son, Thiago. No one has earned time off more than Messi.
Numbers don't really do Messi justice, but let's just review what he did on Saturday. The stats are courtesy of Whoscored.com.
Barça's No.10 scored three goals and assisted another. He scored with both feet, from distance and at close range. He sent a free kick over the wall and into the post.
Messi finally played at the level we saw last season and the result was one of the best performances Europe has seen this season.
His wasn't the only star to shine, though.
Fabregas Is Back...We Hope
Lionel Messi will get all of the praise after netting three goals, but Cesc Fabregas is equally deserving here.
Both of these superstars were at their best in A Coruna, probably for the first time all season. If Fabregas had played the entire match, he would really be more deserving of Man of the Match honors.
This was not only the best match Fabregas has played this season, it was probably the best match he has played in a Barcelona jersey.
Barça's No. 4 became the first player in Europe to manage three assists in one game this season.
He completed 95 percent of his 94 passes and set up four goal-scoring opportunities. He sent long balls on the ground and through the air.
His touch was great, his vision peerless, his weight on passes perfect. There was not a single flaw in Fabregas' game.
Let's see if he can string a few good performances together now.
The Spaniard was so fantastic against Deportivo that he had many people saying he is ready to take the mantle from the great Xavi.
However, as soon as the Catalan legend stepped onto the pitch, it was clear that Fabregas is not the right man for that job.
While Fabregas was phenomenal and nearly unplayable all night, the contrast in styles was so apparent in this match.
The younger midfielder is very attack-minded and can link up well with his forwards because of his great positioning and awareness.
But he cannot control and direct play like Xavi can. Hernandez came on at the hour mark and almost closed the match down immediately.
His ability to boss the entire midfield is just unrivaled. He was only on for 30 minutes, but Xavi still managed to complete 48 passes, two that almost led to goals.
Cesc Fabregas obviously has a permanent place at Barcelona and he is finally starting to learn his role as an attacking midfielder, but his place is not as the engine behind Barcelona's entire play.
Fabregas will be key in directing the attack, but it is Thiago who is being groomed to direct everything from midfield.
Pizzi Immense, Earning His Place in Madrid
Coming into the match and even this season, everyone was talking about the young Nelson Oliveira and how he could prove to be Nani's heir for the national side by season's end.
It seems people have been raving about the wrong Portuguese star all along. Pizzi was outstanding against Barcelona.
The 23-year-old scored his own brace, just like his national team captain. He also did it via a penalty and a world-class free kick that no keeper would have stopped.
He also failed to get sufficient time on the ball, but was very efficient when given the chance. Does this all not sound a bit like another Portuguese wide man who plays in Spain?
Pizzi showed why Atletico Madrid has already chosen to keep the player next season and why they were willing to take a chance on a young star who seemed unwanted at Braga.
If he keeps this up all season, it will make it much easier for Los Colchoneros to cash in on Adrian Lopez in order to keep Falcao in Madrid.
Valdes Deserves Some Slack
Victor Valdes had a bad night, but he did a great job considering the support he had.
The own goal was not his fault. It could be argued that he should have been able to reach the awful pass from Alba, but no keeper should be expected to have grabbed that.
The screamer will earn him criticism because it was within his range, but Valdes should not really be blamed.
He missed it because he had no line of sight while he had no defender there to shield him after they were all lost on the corner.
It was a well-hit ball moving at high speed and he had just moments to react. It should never have made it to him to begin with.
Poor clearances and bad positioning led to two goals. The free kick and penalty were just great shots.
Valdes still struggle on corners and never got his back line in position during set pieces and certainly could have done better in goal. I am not saying he had a good night.
But to say that he was responsible for the goals from open play would be unfair and is just an easy way to place blame.
Who Needs Defending When We Can Just Outscore Everyone?
After eight games last season, Barcelona had given up two goals. At the same point this campaign, La Blaugrana have allowed 11.
There are just no more excuses at this point. The fact is that Barcelona have a bad defense. Not OK, not decent, bad.
Yes, the referee was bad and was responsible for at least one goal. But the referee did not score in his own net. He did not get lost on almost every set piece. He did not lose the ball countless times in his own final third.
Yes, Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol are injured, but the lack of great options is a result of the team purposefully choosing not to reinvest in the defense.
While the visitors certainly have the right to say that the ref nearly cost them the game, the blame is more on the defense here.
Unjust penalty and debatable red card aside, Barcelona's defense was just atrocious for much of this match.
They misread no less than 11 passes that led to unsuccessful tackles leading to opportunities at the other end. They gave up three free kicks in dangerous areas, one that led to a goal.
They gave up a penalty, albeit an unfair one. They allowed five corners. They scored an own goal. There was no organization at the back, no discipline. Everyone was lost on set pieces.
No disrespect to Pizzi and Riki, but they were made to look like Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema by Alex Song and Javier Mascherano.
Jordi Alba had his worst game of the season. Even Sergio Busquets was sloppy. All five defensive positions were inconsistent.
Barcelona were always going to score on the league's most porous defense. While the number of goals was exciting to watch, the level of defensive play from both teams was at times embarrassing.
Right now, with Carles Puyol injured and seemingly on the verge of retirement, there is a huge void in leadership at the club. There is no direction at the back.
Gerard Pique needs to become that guy, but it just might not be possible until Puyol has left.
A Coruña Was Pure Class
Before this match even started, it's fair to say that most A Coruña residents expected a loss for their team. Deportivo are in the relegation zone and Barcelona are atop the league table.
When the visitors opened the scoring barely three minutes in, it was a bad sign of things to come.
But the fans that packed Riazor did not get discouraged. Nor did they give up after the second goals was scored just five minutes later.
What happened at the 18-minute mark, though, was the stuff that makes fans of any team proud.
When Lionel Messi scores to put Barça up 3-0, most teams rightly feel deflated. Many fans would leave and give up. Some would even start booing their team off the pitch, even if the result was expected.
Not in A Coruña. Even as Messi was still embraced by his teammates, the stadium drowned out any sounds of celebration as they started a chorus of cheers in support of their team.
The fans knew they were in for a rout, but were not going about to turn on their team. Instead, they got louder and louder, trying to inspire even one goal to earn back some dignity.
Perhaps the backing of the fans inspired the players because before we knew it, Deportivo were within a goal of drawing level.
The fans stayed boisterous throughout the match even as Barça twice built a two-goal lead. The stadium erupted when Jordi Alba scored an own goal that allowed the hosts to again get within a goal.
The highlight of the night came when the final whistle blew and Riazor eruped with a series of chants and cheers praising their club.
Banners, scarves, and flags were waved and everyone in the building rose to their feet to praise their team for scoring four goals on one of football's greatest teams.
Barcelona has fans all over the world due to their successful history, especially over the last few decades.
On Saturday night, Deportivo fans showed that while their numbers are dwarfed by that of Barcelona, their loyalty, dedication and connection with their team is something that most global fans cannot and will not ever experience.
It is these moments that make Spanish football such a joy to watch.
This Can Be a Turning Point for Deportivo
It seems odd that a team can give up five goals and somehow use the result as inspiration for the rest of their season, but that is exactly the opportunity Jose Luis Oltra has here.
His team was on the verge of getting thoroughly embarrassed at home before Riki earned a penalty for his team.
Now, instead of heading into the Galician Derby thinking about their place in the relegation zone and obsessing over allowing five goals, the 43-year-old manager can use the spirit and attitude of his team to get their season back on track.
Depor showed that they have much more talent than they have shown so far. They have been almost anemic in attack, but scoring four goals on one of Europe's elite teams can build confidence.
If nothing else, this loss should unite the players. It should connect them with the fans.
Getting so close to a giant like Barcelona could lead to heartbreak and despair under the wrong coach.
With the right words and direction, this loss can lead to a rebound that sees the team get out of the relegation zone for good.
Next week's derby will be the hardest match of the season for Deportivo, but if they can take the inspiration given from their fans and the match itself, it can be a turning point for the Galician club.
Please feel free to comment below and give your thoughts and impressions from the match.