Though the La Liga table had long since been wrapped up, FC Barcelona came to Camp Nou in droves on Saturday, hoping to see their club get one more win to cap off a historic campaign.
Facing off against a stout Malaga club, though, the hopes may have been merely to avoid going out with a whimper in the same way Manchester United did in capturing its Premier League crown.
There would be no whimpers from Blaugrana on Saturday.
Barcelona got off to a torrid start, evaporating an overwhelmed Malaga club's will to compete in a 4-1 rout in their La Liga season finale.
Almost from the opening pitch, Barcelona came out firing with an aggressive attack. Wanting to put the match away early, they drove right into the teeth of the Malaga defense, eschewing the theory that this would be a mere 90-minute rest stop before the celebration.
Even with Lionel Messi again out of the lineup with injury, Barcelona was able to make good on their early aggressiveness. Following an absolutely sensational through pass by Andres Iniesta, Pedro dropped off an easy assist to David Villa, who sent a softball past Malaga goalkeeper Wilfredo Caballero.
It took all of three minutes for Barcelona's rout to begin. Villa's goal sent Camp Nou into a tizzy that they would hold for the next 87 minutes, the crowd showing up as raucous as ever to bask in the celebration of the moment.
They would have more to celebrate. Continuing to stifle Malaga's attack at the midfield, Barcelona again got the ball deep into the Malaga zone.
What followed was a play so beautiful you had to rewind the DVR to make sure No. 10 didn't sneak out onto the pitch. Darting his way through the Malaga defense like it was a game of FIFA 13, Cesc Fabregas did some NBA-level ankle-breaking en route to a scintillating goal to put Barcelona ahead 2-0 just 14 minutes into the affair.
The goal could represent something of a special goodbye for Fabregas, who has been the subject of a plethora of transfer rumors. The 26-year-old forward is tired of being left out of the starting lineup, per John Cross of the Mirror, and has been considering a move back to the Premier League. Should that happen, at least he went out with a bang.
Also ending his season on a high note was defender Martin Montoya. A key cog in stopping plenty of Malaga attacks, Montoya made five interceptions in Saturday's match and played one of his best outings of the season.
But the moment everyone will be talking about is his beautiful strike from outside the box in the 16th minute. Taking a failed clear after a corner, the 22-year-old took the ball on one hop and sent it past Caballero for Barcelona's third goal before the 20-minute mark.
It was Montoya's first goal of the season. As noted by the Twitter feed BarcaStat, Montoya became the 17th different player to score a goal for Barcelona this season:
CORRECTION: Martin Montoya is the 17th Barcelona player who scores for the team this season #fcblive— FCBarcelona (@BarcaStat) June 1, 2013
Just an another astounding feat of dominance.
Though the fusillade of fireballs being sent Malaga's way subsided after Montoya's score, the damage was done. Barcelona held a 3-0 lead going into the halftime break, one that everyone knew was impenetrable.
Iniesta's unselfishness earlier in the match was rewarded by getting his own score in the 52nd minute, while Malaga's Pedro Morales helped his club avoid a clean sheet in the 56th.
Saturday's victory culminated one of the more dominant stretches in club history for Barcelona. They hit the hallowed 100-point mark with the win, capturing the La Liga crown by a jaw-dropping 15 points over an equally stout Real Madrid outfit.
Having now won the title four of the last five years, FC Barcelona is in the midst of a dynasty. With their dominance sans Messi on Saturday, one has a hard time seeing that ending anytime soon.
|Wilfredo Caballero ||D||
Jose Manuel Pinto ||B|
|Jesus Gamez ||B-||Gerard Pique ||B-|
Weligton ||B-||Javier Mascherano ||A-|
|Diego Lugano ||C||
Jordi Alba ||B-|
Eliseu ||C+||Martin Montoya ||A|
Andres Iniesta ||A|
|Jeremy Toulalan ||B-||Pedro ||B|
Julio Baptista ||B-||Sergio Busquets ||A-|
Isco ||C+||Cesc Fabregas||A|
Roque Santa Cruz
|C||David Villa ||B+|
|Javier Saviola ||C||Eric Abidal ||C+|
Seba Fernandez ||C||Alexis Sanchez ||B-|
Andres Iniesta, Barcelona: A
We've already touted Iniesta's performance in the recap for quite a bit, but it's impossible not to marvel at what fine form he was in on Saturday. The through pass that led to Villa's goal helped set a dominating tone early, one that said Barcelona wasn't going to relax through its triumphant season-ender.
Goals alone are usually good enough to get in the A range, but Iniesta was nothing short of phenomenal on every end of the field. He made three tackles defensively, helping stifle Malaga's attack, and also completed a very nice 90 percent of his passes—especially considering his rate of difficulty on some.
Cesc Fabregas, Barcelona: A
Iniesta would have been the man of the match had he not been bested by a teammate who could be walking out the door. Fabregas was a tour de force on the attack, carving up Malaga's defense for two successful dribbles through the teeth of the defense. His goal early in the match will be what everyone talks about, but there was just a ton of impressive play to be seen.
At 26 years old, Fabregas is still directly in the prime of his career. He may ultimately transfer this summer, but one thing is clear—the price just went up.
Pedro Morales, Malaga: A-
It's not too often you see a substitute come in and make such an impact—especially in a blowout. Entering the match for the struggling Roque Santa Cruz in the 45th minute, Morales was excellent the entire second half. He was active defensively, recording two interceptions and an equal amount of tackles, and he was aggressive on the attack.
Morales' goal was the face-saver for Malaga on Saturday, allowing them to at least take some pride out of the loss. There aren't many positives to be taken out of a 4-1 drubbing, but at least someone showed up to play.
Wilfredo Caballero, Malaga: D
The same cannot be said for Malaga's goalie, Caballero, whose arms and legs seemed to have holes in them. Goals like Fabregas', where he splits an entire defense and leaves everyone's mouths agape, are understandable. But being beaten by Montoya had to be frustrating, as were a few of his positioning tactics.
To put it another way: When only six shots go on goal and four of them go through, you probably didn't do your job.