In what was thus far the game of the season in La Liga, FC Barcelona had to win a footballing street fight on Saturday as they held on to defeat Deportivo La Coruña 5-4.
Barcelona got things started quickly as Cesc Fabregas found a streaking Jordi Alba, who slipped it past Daniel Aranzubia for the 1-0 lead in the third minute.
Just five minutes later, Lionel Messi found an open Cristian Tello, who faked out a defender and beat Aranzubia via the five-hole to double the lead. According to stat guru Mr. Chip, Barcelona had not lead 2-0 that quickly in a game since an away game against Sporting Gijon in September 1997.
Barcelona were on a tear and it continued in the 19th minute as Fabregas got the ball to Messi, who was open at the top of the box and sent a bullet into the back of the net for the third goal in less than 20 minutes.
A questionable call gave Deportivo a penalty in the 25th minute. Riki appeared to be tripped up by Javier Mascherano. The replay showed that it was a bad call as well, as the alleged foul was outside the box. Pizzi stepped up and beat Victor Valdes to give the home side their first goal.
Deportivo cut the lead to one in the 37th minute as Alex Bergantiños blasted a half volley, which Valdes could not handle, that rolled into the back of the net.
Just like that, Deportivo made it a game.
However, Messi brought back some order in just before halftime as Fabregas slipped it to Messi, who sent the ball to the far post and in to send Barça into the locker room with a 4-2 halftime lead.
In the second half, Sergio Busquets was called for a foul on Riki outside the box. Pizzi stepped up and struck a golazo for the 3-4 score line. A few minutes later, Mascherano was sent off when it looked like he elbowed Riki in the face. Upon looking at the replay, Javier barely touched Riki and it was not a foul. The referee was just plain awful throughout the game.
Messi nearly had a hat trick in the 53rd minute, but his free kick hit the post. Adriano came in soon after for David Villa to fill in Mascherano’s spot. Pedro came in for Tello in the 56th minute and Xavi replaced Cesc Fabregas in the 60th minute.
Barcelona were in trouble, but Messi grabbed his hat trick after he slipped by a Depor defender, and what looked like an impossible angle was made possible by Leo as he put it to the back post for the 5-3 lead.
But Deportivo would not die.
A Deportivo cross into the box was put it by Jordi Alba for the 4-5 score. It was a bizarre play, but it was actually a nice finish by Alba, if I must say so.
Those were some of the most nervous last few minutes all Barcelona fans have seen in a long time as Deportivo would make runs to try and tie the game. Barça had to play keep away for most of the remaining minutes, as being a man down meant they could not make strong runs at goal.
Deportivo had a few corner kicks in stoppage time, but Barcelona just held on to win 5-4 in what was the game of the Liga season so far.
It was an ugly win for FC Barcelona, but the team and all Culés will take it.
Let me say that Deportivo La Coruña earned not just my respect, but the respect of all Culés. Yes, they gave up five goals, but they never gave up, even when they were down 3-0. Most teams would have rolled over and allowed the blowout to ensue. But this Depor team showed heart, pride and fight, and I wish them the best throughout the season—minus when they come to the Camp Nou later this season.
I am not a fan of the “5 Things We Learned…” type of articles (played out), but this game was so different and had so much that I want to talk about, I had to break it down into five slides.