Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona: A Team of Destiny in La Liga
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.
Lionel Messi Continues to Write His Legacy in Gold, and with Hat Tricks
How many times has Leo Messi led a Barcelona comeback and single-handedly won the match?
Is it a bad thing?
Of course not.
But unlike other games where the other forwards have been dreadful, this game was different. David Villa did not have a bad game. Cristian Tello scored a goal and was solid on the right side of the pitch. When Pedro came in, he also played well.
This wasn’t one of those games where the other forwards just passed it to Lionel Messi and stood back to see if he could create something. All of the forwards as well as Fabregas and Iniesta went looking for the goal; it just happened that Leo took the burden upon himself to get the goals.
And he got them. Messi is beyond description this Liga season. He leads La Liga in goals with 11.
Lionel Messi now has 71 goals in 2012.
I repeat: 71 goals all calendar year. And we still have a week in October, and two more months to go.
Here are more Messi stats:
Messi is the first FC Barcelona player to score 15 Liga hat tricks. He now has 21 hat tricks in all competitions as a Barcelona player.
Messi is the first FC Barcelona player since the legendary Cesar in 1950 to score 11 goals in his first eight Liga games.
Messi now has score 59 goals in 2012 in all competitions for FC Barcelona, breaking his own record of 58 goals in 2010.
With 44 goals in La Liga in 2012, Lionel Messi surpasses Cristiano Ronaldo’s record (43 goals in 2011) to become the player with the most Liga goals in a calendar year.
Those who think Ronaldo should win the Ballon d’Or in 2012 need to look at what Lionel Messi has done all year. And not just with FC Barcelona, but also with the Argentine national team—scoring 12 goals this year and finally truly leading his national team to wins.
Grande Leo! A Ballon d’Or four-peat may be coming!
Cesc Fabregas Needed a Game Like This
The player that needed a fantastic game more than any other Barcelona player was Francesc “Cesc” Fabregas.
Ever since he returned to his boyhood team from Arsenal last year, it seems like many have been questioning how Cesc fits in this Barça system. There have been several games where Fabregas seems a bit behind on passes and seems to still not fully grasp the team’s system.
Cesc plays so well on the Spanish national team, yet has struggled with Barcelona on several occasions. Part of this is because he plays out of position at times, more so at Barcelona. Cesc plays a false nine with La Furia Roja as well, something he’s done well at on the national team, but cannot do at Barça.
It was great to see Fabregas have a terrific game in a Barcelona kit. Cesc was on point with his passes and looked very comfortable.
At halftime, Cesc Fabregas made 77 passes at 95 percent accuracy rating, 7/7 on long passes, three key passes and three assists.
Cesc was subbed out for Xavi in the 60th minute.
Cesc Fabregas now leads La Liga in assists with five.
Grande Cesc! Great to see him have a solid performance and silent the critics for at least one week.
Barcelona’s Defense: Still Needs a True CB
Need I say more?
This Barça defense is in need of a true center-back. I understand Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol are still out with their injuries, but Tito Vilanova cannot continue to throw out central defensive midfielders and just make them into defenders. Sergio Busquets has to become a third CB many times for this weak Barcelona defense.
Eventually, it’s going to come back and bite you. It’s happened in the past and it will happen again.
I’m hopeful the time for Barça’s young CBs will come soon, but for now, I am eagerly awaiting Pique to get back as his injury will not keep him out much longer.
Nothing against Alex Song or Javier Mascherano. They do their best when playing CB. But it’s not their natural position and it shows many times on the pitch. You get accustomed to the position you’ve played all your youth as well as the position you’ve played for most of your young professional career.
This not only applies to football, it applies to most sports. Baseball might be the sport that players are asked to accept playing another position most frequently. For some of those players asked to make the switch, it takes a long time to get accustomed to their new spot. For others, they grow in the position quickly, but most never truly master it.
This part applies to football as well. Song and Mascherano may play CB for the foreseeable future at FC Barcelona, and they will do a good job.
But they’ll never do a great job.
Why? One of the main reasons is that their natural football instincts will always be CDM instincts and not CB instincts.
This team needs natural/true CBs and soon. I truly hope the young CBs get a shot, if not, go out and find a new CB this January.
But I’m not holding my breath.
Give Credit to Deportivo
Some people have said Barcelona almost blew the game.
Yes, the 3-0 lead was erased to 2-3. But this game was never tied, so Barça never let the lead go.
Deportivo had a man advantage for most of the second half, so they had a great opportunity to tie the game up. It can’t be said that the referee made bad calls against the home side either.
Because the referee was consistently awful in this game. Then again, it's La Liga, so you should expect to see sketchy refereeing in all games.
All of that being said, this game shows how much heart Liga teams have—even when they are down 3-0 to the best team in the world.
Deportivo showed tremendous heart and fight. I never thought they’d make it a game after Messi’s goal when it became 3-0. All Liga fans need to stand up and clap for this Deportivo squad who had Barcelona worried for most of the game.
Much respect to you, Deportivo.
Barcelona Is Looking Like a Team of Destiny
FC Barcelona is looking like a team of destiny.
Teams of destiny always have comebacks that stun everyone and earn three points that they may have not deserved.
Barcelona has done that this Liga season.
Teams of destiny normally have a coach that changes the atmosphere in the locker room.
With his relaxed yet authoritative demeanor, Tito Vilanova has changed the Barça locker room as the players are much more relaxed than when Pep Guardiola was in charge. Just look at the way the players celebrate now compared to when Pep was in charge. Not to mention Tito has given more responsibility to the players in in-game situations—something Pep did not like to do. Also, the players are more vocal both on and off the pitch this season.
Nothing against Pep, by the way. I'm not saying Tito is better than Pep, but he's so far been a good change for the Barcelona players as they are more relaxed than ever.
Teams of destiny have a weakness, but that one weak point does enough to get the team by.
Barcelona’s defense (or goalkeeping) is nowhere near being the best, but it does enough to hold on and get them by. They bend, but so far in La Liga, they have not broken.
Teams of destiny have that one player that carries the team to wins (Ex: Didier Drogba did this for Chelsea last Champions League season).
Lionel Messi has always done this for Barcelona in La Liga, but now he’s stepped it up even further with his passes, incredible angles at goal and his free kicks.
Leo might be better this season than last season.
Teams of destiny fight hard to hold on to wins that were on the brink of slipping out of their grasp.
We saw this on Saturday against Deportivo.
Saturday’s win against Deportivo La Coruña was not the prettiest, but that’s what made it great as well. Barcelona had to fight their way out of a jam and find a way to A.) not completely choke, and B.) respond to their opponent’s strikes.
No one should say that it was just Lionel Messi that won the game for FC Barcelona. Cesc Fabregas had a great game. Xavi played terrific for the half hour he was in there, taking charge of the midfield. Cristian Tello and Pedro performed well with Tello getting a goal as well. Jordi Alba got a goal, given he gave one back as well. Victor Valdes and the Barça defense did enough to stop a Deportivo team with one extra player and plenty of momentum, all in hostile territory.
A fantastic win for Barcelona as, via goal differential, they remain on top of La Liga.
Real Madrid remains in the rearview mirror for now.
While Barça is “The Team of Destiny”, they need to keep an eye on “The Cinderella Team” of La Liga this season: Atletico Madrid. The two Liga leaders face off on December 16 at the Camp Nou in what is sure to be a great game.
What a fantastic game that we witnessed on Saturday! Only in La Liga can you see action like this.
Sorry EPL-biased people. It’s the truth.
The EPL has plenty of exciting games, but La Liga is more consistent on giving football fans games like the ones we witnessed on Saturday between Deportivo and Barcelona.
The EPL may have more rich clubs and media coverage, but La Liga, the clubs and their players have heart. And I'll take that any day.
Then again, I'm very biased went it comes to FC Barcelona and La Liga.
FC Barcelona is looking like a team of destiny in La Liga in 2012-13.
What a moment in FC Barcelona history to be a Culé!
Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona on Bleacher Report.
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