FC Barcelona: Player Ratings from the Cup Triumph at Malaga
Barcelona brought an end to Malaga's Copa del Rey hopes Thursday night in a cup tie for the ages.
Supporters at La Rosaleda saw their team press high against the Catalan giants and attack with frenetic pace and intensity.
The Blaugrana went forward with incisive intent as well, though they struggled to control the tempo of the match through long stretches.
The home side equalized twice on lightning-quick counterattacks, but in the end, Barcelona overwhelmed with their attacking prowess, putting the tie beyond Malaga's reach in the latter stages.
Barcelona will be satisfied with many aspects of the performance, but will hope to shore up their vulnerability to speedy counterattacks and re-exert their typical dominating midfield influence in matches to come.
Let's look at the individual performances for Barcelona.
Pinto: Might have been disappointed to see Joaquin's effort roll in at his near post, but can't really be blamed for either of Malaga's goals. Snuffed out the danger in one of Malaga's finest attacks of the match in the 38th minute, saving an effort from Camacho and gathering the rebound before Sebastian Fernandez could pounce on it. Rating: 6.5
Jordi Alba: Made some dangerous runs down the left, but was unusually occupied at the defensive end of the pitch. Drifted inside Pique in the run-up to Santa Cruz's second-half equalizer, and was caught out on more than one occasion. Was unlucky not to get an assist in the second half, but should have pulled back for Pedro instead of forcing the cross through to Messi. Rating: 5.5
Pique: Looked a little bit vulnerable partnered with Mascherano in defense. Perhaps could have gotten closer to Joaquin as he lined up his first half effort. But all is forgiven by his phenomenal half-volley finish early in the second half—a goal worthy of a world-class striker. Rating: 6.5
Mascherano: Looked uncomfortable with Malaga attackers bearing down on him from all angles. Compromised by a tremendous run and perfect pass on the first goal, but could have done more to prevent the second as Joaquin waltzed past him before finding Santa Cruz. Rating: 5.5
Dani Alves: A constant threat down the right, he nicked in behind Eliseu with a perfectly timed run on the first goal, and crossed brilliantly for Messi on the second. Up and down the pitch as ever, he was solid in defense. Rating: 7.5
Busquets: Was frantically trying to quell Malaga's lightning-quick attacks, and failed to smoothly move Barcelona's attack from defense into midfield at times. However, he grew in influence in the second half, and managed to keep things tight after Malaga's second. Rating: 6
Xavi: A promising start gave way to a less-than-ideal first half for the captain. After his picture-perfect pass for Dani Alves led to the opener, a few stray passes and a failure to get on the ball with his usual consistency spelled trouble for the Blaugrana. But when Malaga's pressure faded, he, too, grew in influence once more, closing out the match as strongly as he started it. Rating: 6.5
Fabregas: Another stellar performance. Foolishly tried to play Iniesta in on goal in the opening stages after a wonderfully deceptive turn, but his mistake turned out to be a harbinger of things to come. With a similar swivel in the second half, he found Iniesta with the perfect light touch, and thus came the magical and decisive strike. Could have added a fifth and sixth in the latter stages, having been played in by Pedro and then Alexis, but luckily the result was already beyond doubt. Rating: 7
Iniesta: Also looked out of sorts for isolated moments after Malaga's first goal, but overall performed brilliantly. Should have found the back of the net in the first half after Messi played him through on goal. More than made up for it in the second, finding Pique with a perfect cross, and finishing off a spectacular move for the winner. Laid the ball perfectly into Dani Alves' stride for his cross on the fourth. Rating: 7.5
Pedro: Cleverly let the ball through to Xavi in the buildup to the first goal, before darting into the area and finding space for Alves' pinpoint cross. Added a fine finish to a well-worked attacking move. Was safe in possession on the night, but didn't carry the threat of those around him after the opening exchanges. Rating: 6.5
Messi: Was uncharacteristically wasteful with his finishing and his passing in the first half, and should have finished his half-volley from Iniesta's scoop just before Malaga's second equalizer. Nonetheless, he was heavily involved throughout the second half and took advantage of the increased space afforded him by the Malaga defenders, running them into the ground. Added a fine header to cushion Barca's lead. Rating: 7
Thiago: In a rare move, replaced Messi with seven minutes to play, but didn't have much time to make his presence felt.
Alexis: Made good use of his three minutes on the pitch, drawing a foul in the right channel and nearly getting an assist on a smart square pass to Fabregas.
Adriano: Brought on to replace Jordi Alba for second half stoppage time, but barely got a touch.
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