Barcelona made it 10 wins in a row at Camp Nou this season as they cruised to a comfortable 3-1 win over Rayo Vallecano in La Liga this weekend.
The Catalan club had beaten their opponents by a combined score of 16-0 in their past three encounters, and continued on that recent domination with a win here—set up by goals to David Villa and Lionel Messi, who netted a brace on the night.
Both sides were missing a bevy of players that did alter the respective starting sides, but in the end, it had little impact on the final score.
Barcelona started very strong here—as expected—with Messi nearly netting the opening goal after just six minutes. Some beautiful build-up play from Cesc Fabregas and David Villa saw the Argentinian with a great chance to score, but he would lose his footing at the crucial moment.
The little wizard then had a free kick rattle against the crossbar after eight minutes, but would not fall the way of the Catalan club either, and the scores would remain locked. That was until the 25th minute when Villa netted home a brilliant counterattacking move from La Blaugrana.
Messi dribbled the ball from halfway right around to the Rayo box before playing in Villa, whose shot went flying into the top right corner for a brilliant goal.
The away side—currently on a four-game losing streak for away games in La Liga this year—would start to get their attack going after that, with several efforts on goal. However, few of them caused Jose Pinto any real trouble and the Barcelona goal would remain intact.
La Blaugrana would double their lead just before half-time after Villa and Messi combined again to find the back of the net—this time with the Spaniard providing the assist. Andres Iniesta played through a lovely pass to Villa, who held the ball up beautifully for Messi.
The Argentinian finished low into the bottom corner to make it 2-0, and extend his incredible goal-scoring streak in La Liga to 18 consecutive games.
Barcelona would carry the 2-0 lead into half-time, with Rayo Vallecano struggling to keep up with the La Liga leaders and their dominant attack. And more of the same would continue in the second half for the Catalan club, who simply dominated the possession and chances throughout the final 45 minutes—netting another goal through Lionel Messi as a result.
The striker would score Barca's third after some wonderful build-up play from Villa saw him through on goal. He would exquisitely chip the Rayo goalkeeper to cap off a delightful attacking move, and push the Catalan club even further ahead of their opponent.
The home side would continue to press for further goals in this one, with Villa, Alexis Sanchez and Messi all squandering good chances to add to their total.
Vallecano would ensure that Barcelona would live to rue those misses, with Raul Tamudo netting a goal with his first touch of the football, after being introduced as a substitute just moments earlier. The former Espanyol man was simply too quick and strong—getting on the end of a cross from the right and firing home from close range to get the away side on the score-sheet.
However, the goal would be nothing other than a consolation for the visitors, who were shown to be second-class by a rampant Barcelona side.
The Catalan club will feel that they really should have won by more, and they would no doubt have loved to keep a clean sheet here. Having said that, the reality is that they did what they came to do—win, and pick up the three points—and keep their lead on top of the La Liga table in tact.
Surely the title is coming for La Blaugrana at the end of the season.
Lionel Messi, Barcelona: A+
Finding new ways to laud the achievements of Lionel Messi is becoming an incredibly difficult thing to do in world football. The Argentinian international was again at his best in this one, and was a constant problem for Rayo Vallecano's defense to deal with all night.
He showed great understanding to set up Villa for the first goal, and his goals were just what we have just come to expect from Messi. Yet both were very good finishes, with his second goal—chipping the ball over Ruben—one of the best we've ever seen from the Argentinian.
To score in 18 straight La Liga games is an incredible achievement, and one that is probably being underestimated because it is Messi. But given that it's been over four months now since the Argentinian has not scored in a domestic game, it's fairly safe to say that record is something special.
Piti, Rayo Vallecano: B
Despite choosing the wrong option once or twice throughout this one, Piti was Vallecano's best attacking weapon here and he deserves some recognition for that. Especially up against a dominant midfield like the Calatan club presented in this one.
The right winger finished with the most shots on goal and the most goal-scoring opportunities created for others out of any Rayo player on the night, with his cross in from the right flank giving the visitors their lone goal of the evening.
Piti also made two interceptions tracking back in midfield, and whilst overrun at times by Barca's midfield, held his own relatively well throughout.
David Villa, Barcelona: A+
After showing himself to be the catalyst for Barcelona during their incredible Champions League comeback, David Villa again showed how deadly he can be alongside Lionel Messi with a dominant performance at the top of the Blaugrana attack.
The Spaniard has seemingly done away with any tension between he and Messi, with the two combining beautifully for Barca again in this one. Their understanding together is first-class, and it's a huge reason why Barca find themselves so far out in front in the domestic competition.
Villa was the dominant striker that Barca have been wanting all season—giving them a target at the top of the attack to aim for. He was clinical in his finishing, with a great goal early, and caused havoc for the Rayo defense every time the ball found him on the night.
Up Next for Both Teams
Due to international friendlies and World Cup qualifiers, both teams won't see domestic action until two weeks' time. Barcelona will play away against Celta Vigo on March 30 whilst Rayo Vallecano at home to Malaga on that same date also.
What did you make of Barcelona's big win against Rayo Vallecano?
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