Barcelona destroy Celta with second half rout
Five goals in the second half, including a Suárez hat-trick with one coming from a passed penalty from Messi, saw Barcelona maintain their lead at the top of the table.
A cracking Messi free-kick was equalised by a Guidetti penalty in an even first half, before Barcelona's front line went on a thrilling assault of the Celta back line in the second half.
Suárez scored a hat-trick, with one goal coming from a penalty Messi chose to pass to the Uruguayan, another a tap-in after great work from Neymar down the left to leave the ball just on the wrong side of the line.
Rakitic popped up with one goal, before Neymar completed the rout with some outrageous skill before beating the keeper to make it 6-1.
Barcelona started the game with the intensity expected at the Camp Nou. But Celta matched them for energy from the get-go. The home side will have been well aware of the result in the capital city which finished just minutes prior to their kick-off which saw Atlético win by a single goal thanks to Fernando Torres which brought them joint top with the Catalan side. There was little to choose between the sides in the early stages in terms of chances but the Messi-Suarez-Neymar strikeforce appeared to be itching to connect at every opportunity, although it wasn’t clicking as we’ve seen it before. The Barça faithful were delighted to see the "M" in the trident line-up following his recent kidney stone treatment and he would certainly make his mark on the game.
Chances started to come after the initial 10 minutes during which time both teams looked to be searching for some type of rhythm to their play and an understanding of that of their opponents. A nice control and drag passed Cabral by Luis Suarez in the 11th minute opened up a run on goal but the Celta defender chose not to see how it ended and brought him down prematurely. The free-kick gave Messi a chance to set his sights and a curling effort drifted just passed the right-hand post.
The little Argentine was getting more involved and in the 18th minute seemed to turn inside himself which sent the defender player around the nearby referee. His real impact on the game was getting closer.
In the 24th minute the visitors created their first real chance. A quick break away and some neat passes saw Planas stretch out a leg ahead of Pique for the ball that had broken free in a challenge and managed to make good contact. Bravo though pushed it away with strong hands and the danger was over.
Not for Celta though.
Messi, just like a dart-thrower, had set his marker with the previous free kick and this time curled the ball sublimely into the top corner. We should be used to it by now but we certainly won’t tire from seeing it.
Celta weren’t submitting early though and in the 32nd minute a sumptuous volley from a tight angle on the right by Beauveu - after a delightful cross-field pass from Guidetti - was parried by Bravo and then cleared to safety.
Jordi Alba almost doubled the home side’s advantage with a shot from outside the box after it broke off a defender. The sweet left foot drive clipped the top of the net as it dropped over the inside of the left post leaving keeper Sergio stranded and praying.
And then another break from the visitors and as Alba and Guidetti battled for the ball the defender hooked away the leg. Penalty! There certainly didn’t appear to be any doubt but that didn’t stop the Barça players challenge the referee about it, with Iniesta possibly fortunate to escape a booking. The spot kick was duly put away by the player that created it and Celta were not overly flattered by the scoreline. All square at the break.
Into the second half and Barça are out of the traps quickly. Neymar, who had been relatively poor in the first 45, seemed to be re-energized. With the ball inside the left hand side of the Celta area he rolled his studs over it, evading the right-back, scraping the goal-line and then laid it off to Suarez who hit the far post. The rebound broke to Sergi Roberto with space in the box who tried to compose himself. Then skied the ball high into the stand.
The home side were dominating and in the 11th minute of the second half a great save by Sergio thwarted a clear chance for Iniesta.
In the 58th minute, the domination paid off. A goal from Suarez. A lovely lift over the defence by Messi and the Uruguayan takes it first time with a inside of the boot on the half volley.
Five minutes later Dani Alves was taken off, clearly unhappy. But whether that was related to his views on his own performance or the fact that he wouldn’t see out the 90 minutes is less obvious. Aleix Vidal took his place.
The crowd were getting more boisterous as their team seemed to step up a gear. Closing down the ball quickly all over the pitch and pushing for ways to kill off their opponent may have formed part of the half time team talk.
The 24th minute saw Celta make another opportunity though against the run of play. A nice through pass to the edge of the box saw Guidetti and others try to make an opening faced with several defenders which ended with a drive by Wass from just outside the area but it was always rising.
On the 28th minute of the half Celta looked to break quickly and the resulting shot from the edge of the penalty box by Wass was well held by the Barça stopper.
But those chances were not taken and in the 75th minute the game started to really drift away from the team from Vigo. Some very tidy play from Messi saw him play in Neymar who rounded the keeper beautifully and, as the ball thought about going out of play, stretched to fire it across goal. It bounced off the covering defender but straight through to the advancing Suarez who tapped in as it was about to cross the line.
So, three goals to one and there seemed to be only one way this game was going.
A penalty was slid passed the keeper on the 84th minute to complete Suarez’s hat-trick. But the story of that goal is not so obvious. Messi actually took the penalty – which was given after the mercurial Argentinian was pulled down in the area after toying with the Celta right back. Remember Cruyff in 1982? Remember Henry and Pires in 2013? Well, Messi touched the spot kick to his right and Luis strolled up from the edge of the box to pass it home. A lesson on how the Frenchmen should have done it.
The action didn’t stop there. Three minutes later, Suarez became provider. He played a perfect ball into the path of Rakitic who lifted it over the oncoming Sergio. Five-one.
And the second half rout was completed as we entered injury time. Another assist from the Uruguayan with a diagonal from the right was delectably controlled by Neymar allowing it to sit up in front of him as Sergio came out of his goal. A subtle feint from the Brazilian saw the stopper drop just a fraction but this momentum meant he couldn't react to the ball being deftly lifted over him and into the open goal.
Neymar had been average in the first half. Celta had been competitive. Questions were being asked about the Champions stepping up to the challenge being set. The MSN trident stepped up, Neymar looked a different player and all in all the questions were answered in style.
Barcelona remain three points clear of their nearest rivals in the league. And when they turn it on, they’re very, very impressive.
The starting elevens:
Barça: Bravo; Daniel Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Jordi Alba; Busquets, Sergi Roberto, Iniesta; Messi, Neymar and Luis Suárez.
Missing from the line-up tonight are Adriano, Bartra, Douglas and Sandro . It was hoped that Arda would start the game but the Turkish player had problems with his right foot. Messi starts despite recent kidney stone treatment.
Celta: Sergio: Jonny, Hugo Mallo, Cabral, Planas; Wass, Radoja, Pablo Hdez, Beauvue, Señé, Guidetti
Celta were without a number of their best players. Ex-Barça players Andreu Fonts and Nolito were out injured while the suspension punishments have come at a bad time for Iago Aspas, Sergi Gómez, Fabián Orellana, and Theo Bongonda. There is some positive news with Hugo Mallo returning from suspension.
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