Barcelona chose to rest Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Jose Pinto for their showdown with Real Zaragoza on Sunday, but it didn’t seem to slow them down. Barca came out firing with two first-half goals and put away their La Liga competitors to the tune of a 3-0 victory.
After an even start to the match that saw very few quality scoring chances, Barcelona got on the board in the 20th minute with a brilliant strike to the front-left corner off the foot of Thiago Alcantara (via Sphera Channel):
Barcelona continued to dominate the tempo, and it wasn’t long before they would capitalize on another scoring opportunity, this time courtesy of Cristian Tello (via Sphera Channel):
Scoring has come easy for Barca of late, and Sunday’s performance was a good example of the offensive firepower that has led to Spanish dominance this term. Barcastuff's Twitter account highlights that with this tweet:
The same Twitter feed provided this terrific statistic about Tello’s production in his last 2,000 minutes of play:
Real Zaragoza didn’t look much stronger in the second half of play, but they limited the damage early—thanks in part to a fortunate Alexis Sanchez miss that dinged the post (via FCBarcelona’s Twitter account):
But in the 53rd minute, it was Tello again with the scoring chance to bring Barca’s lead to 3-0 and well out of the reach of Real Zaragova (via FCBarcelona’s Twitter account):
The final minutes of play were a formality with a Barca three-goal lead. Despite missing their best scorer (among others), the La Liga leaders dispatched their competition with relative ease.
Barca seemed content with controlling the pace and keeping their opponent off the board. The final 30-plus minutes of action contained very little excitement, though Barcelona fans had plenty to be excited about.
Cristian Tello: A+
Tello’s quickness was on display early and often in this contest. With tremendous footwork and some creativity to find the net, the striker outshined everyone on the pitch with two goals in the Barca victory. The pair of strikes were his seventh and eighth goals with Barca this season (via FCBarcelona’s Twitter account):
Messi’s absence was a good opportunity for Barca to show their ability to still win without the best footballer on the planet. Scoring has never been challenging for the La Liga powerhouse, and Real Zaragoza didn’t stand much of a chance with Tello’s terrific performance.
Thiago Alcantara: A
Thiago netted Barca’s first goal of the contest and gave his club plenty of momentum following the 20th minute, but he wasn’t done making an impact. The midfielder also dished out an assist on Tello’s early scoring strike and made his presence felt on Barcelona’s attack (via Goal.com):
Thiago can be inconsistent at times, but he has tremendous potential when he gets his minutes. He certainly saw plenty of action on Sunday, and the result was a tremendous performance that fueled Barca’s dominant victory.
Barcelona haven't been particularly strong on the road of late, and with several key players out, it seemed they may struggle in this contest. Instead, Barca silenced the questions with an impressive victory over a gritty Real Zaragoza club. They are now just nine points from a La Liga title.
The contest was as deflating for Real Zaragoza as it was impressive for Barca. The former still has yet to win a game since December, and they fall to the bottom three of the La Liga tables.
It's hard to find anything good to take away from Real Zaragoza's play. While they battled at the end of the match and didn't surrender to the monumental deficit, failing to find the net (and putting just two shots on target) wasn't at all what they needed against a strong offensive club like Barca.