Fifteen minutes. A quarter hour of brilliance between the 20th and 35th minutes was all it took for Barcelona to score two, have another two disallowed and remind the world that when they’re on song, there’s no team that play football quite like them.
That 15-minute master class from Barca put them 2-0 up at the break through Lionel Messi and David Villa, before a defensive error let in Pedro for a third. Getafe got back into the game through a Manu penalty that also saw Gerard Pique dismissed, which was followed by a flurry of chances at both ends. The dismissal of Getafe’s Derek Boateng evened the numbers as Barca held out fairly comfortably to secure a 3-1 victory.
Barca began the game knowing that a win would take them back to the top of La Liga and put the pressure on Real Madrid, who were set to face city rivals Atletico later in the evening. They also knew that with their title rivals in such imperious recent form, they couldn’t afford to slip up.
The first real chance went to Barca after only four minutes after Andres Iniesta’s pass found David Villa in space on the edge of the Getafe box, but the striker shot narrowly over when he really should have scored.
After Villa’s early chance, the game settled into the fairly standard fare of Barca controlling possession in midfield, but Getafe defending resolutely and battling well enough to restrict Barca to little of note in the final third. By the 20-minute mark, Getafe’s gameplan, while not pretty, appeared effective, although unfortunately for the hosts, they hadn’t counted on Barca stepping up a gear or two and totally changing the course of the game.
In the 21st minute, Getafe keeper Jordi Codina let a tame effort from Pedro squirm through his legs and towards goal, though fortunately for the hosts their keeper was able to recover before the ball crossed the line.
A minute later and Barca had the breakthrough in stunning fashion. Messi slid a pinpoint pass between two defenders and found Dani Alves on the right side of the box. Alves cut the ball back to David Villa close to the penalty spot, with Villa’s quick feet allowing him to turn away from a challenge and play a pass to the onrushing Messi who slotted the ball home at the near post.
Barca were now in full flow, with a Pique through ball setting up clever interchange between Villa, Messi and Pedro, who again found Alves out on the right. Alves’ ball somehow evaded Villa’s head a few yards from goal, but it was a further warning to the home side that Barca had hit their stride. Soon after, Messi ran unchallenged from the right, and just as he was approaching the Getafe box played a pass to Villa, with Villa’s powerful shot across goal saved by the foot of Codina
Barca were now rampant, and had two goals disallowed for offside within the space of three minutes around the half hour. Both decisions proved to be marginally correct, with the second particularly one close at the end of a breathtaking move that would have gone down as one of the great team goals in recent memory.
In the 34th minute, the relentless pressure finally turned into a second goal as Villa finished off another fine move. An Alves pass from the right found Messi on the edge of the area once more, and Messi played a first time ball that put Villa through on goal. Villa found himself in an almost identical position to his chance a few minutes earlier, but this time made no mistake as he smashed it past Codina at the near post.
The goal capped a 15 minute spell of sheer brilliance that left the home side shell shocked and without answer to Barca’s dominance. They resorted to a series of cheap fouls, but the damage was already done and Barca spent the rest of the half knocking the ball around with ease. Messi went close again just before the break as he dribbled into the box before jinking inside two Getafe defenders just inside the byline, but they were relieved to see Messi shoot high and wide.
It appeared Getafe boss Michel was left with little more than a damage limitation job for the second half, with his side outclassed in every department. Credit to Getafe though, they began the second half in brighter fashion, and for the first 20 minutes held their own, albeit against a Barca side who were now on cruise control.
Yet just as Getafe were beginning to look a little dangerous going forward, a horrible defensive error put the game out of sight. Getafe keeper Codina played a pass to teammate Cata Diaz on the edge of the box, but with Messi bearing down on him, the defender could only clear the ball straight into the Barca forward. The ball rebounded into the path of Pedro and the Barca winger beat Codina to the ball and tapped in for the visitor’s third goal.
It was frustrating for the hosts that their best spell of the game had been undone by an error, with the game seemingly over at this point. Soon after though, Getafe had a lifeline, as Miku broke into the box and past Carles Puyol, but saw his cutback hit the hand of Gerard Pique as he slid in to challenge. The referee had no hesitation in awarding the penalty, and though Pique was vehement in protesting his innocence, he was shown a second yellow and Barca found themselves down to ten men.
Manu made no mistake as he dispatched a powerful shot that gave Valdes no chance, and the hosts now had a platform from which to build a fight back that had looked highly unlikely just moments before. Barca seemed determined to stop that from happening, and rather than sit back and defend, they immediately enjoyed their most productive spell of the second half, as first Iniesta forced a smart stop from Codina and then Messi curled a close range shot wide of the bottom corner when he really should have scored.
Their inability to take those chances left Getafe with a glimmer of hope, knowing that another goal would set up a grandstand finish. Within the space of a few minutes, Dani Parejo volleyed over from the edge of the area, Manu fired in a near post drive that was well saved by Valdes, Arizmendi’s header was cleared off the line by the head of Maxwell, but the hosts failed to turn any of those efforts into a goal.
With 10 minutes remaining, the hosts saw their man advantage cancelled out as a cynical block by Derek Boateng left Javier Mascherano on the turf and saw Boateng dismissed for a second yellow, effectively killing the chances of a comeback.
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That wasn’t the end of the chances though, as a slip at the back from Dani Alves led to an under hit backpass that let in Arizmendi for another chance, but he hit a weak effort straight at Valdes when he should have done a lot better. Next up were Barca, as a fine interchange of passes between Pedro and substitute Sergio Busquets led to another chance for Messi, but once again the chance was wasted as he sidefooted straight at Codina from six yards out.
That proved to be the final chance of note as the game ended 3-1, which appeared respectable for the hosts, although in truth Barca would have scored six or seven were Messi and Villa a little more clinical on the night.
The win took Barcelona temporarily top on 25 points from their 10 games, though Madrid’s subsequent 2-0 win over Atletico took them back above Barca on 26 points. Villarreal remain in third on 23 points after their 4-1 thrashing of Athletic Bilbao, while this defeat for Getafe saw them drop down to 11th place on 13 points.
Next up for Barca in the league is the visit of Villarreal to Camp Nou next weekend, a game that could prove to be vital for both sides’ title hopes and one Barca will have to play without the presence of the influential Pique.
Also looming on the horizon is the trip to the Santiago Bernabeu in three weeks time for one of the most eagerly anticipated games in La Liga history, although right now the only thing in manager Pep Guardiola’s mind will be the slightly less glamorous visit of Ceuta in the Copa Del Rey on Wednesday night.
Victor Valdes: Had very little to do throughout the game, but made a couple of decent saves late on to preserve Barca’s two-goal cushion. 6.5
Dani Alves: Superb going forward in a dominant first half, providing a number of dangerous crosses and a constant threat to the Getafe defence. Quiet second half going forward, and a slightly shaky spell at the back late on, but overall he was impressive. 7
Carles Puyol: Quiet first half, but was called into action on several occasions after the break, particularly after Pique’s dismissal. Dealt with most of the threats well and helped see his side to victory. 6.5
Gerard Pique: Comfortable throughout and carried the ball forward well at times, but a harsh first booking and a silly second yellow for handball saw him dismissed. 6
Maxwell: Did his job well at both ends of the field, particularly at the defensive end, and produced a key clearance off the line when Barca were under pressure. 7
Javier Mascherano: Probably his best performance in a Barca shirt, as he displayed good passing range and won a number of important challenges. 7.5
Xavi: Barca’s midfield maestro was relatively anonymous in this encounter, with most of the attacking impetus provided by his teammates. 6
Andres Iniesta: Created a number of chances for his teammates and had one decent effort himself, with a return to his familiar role at the head of the midfield clearly suiting him. 7.5
Pedro: His goal was gifted to him by Getafe, but the tricky winger played well throughout and looks to have made the left wing role his own. 7
Lionel Messi: A mixed bag from Messi; superb passing and dribbling throughout the first half as he left the Getafe defence completely bamboozled, but missed two really good chances after the break. Still, he was at the heart of everything good about Barca and is simply untouchable at times. 8
David Villa: Missed a great chance early on, but made up for that by scoring a good goal later on. His movement and interplay with teammates, particularly Messi, is a joy to behold, and the goals are sure to keep coming for the forward. 7.5