Magical Messi drives Barca to 4th straight win
Racing Santander 1 – 4 Barcelona
There are not enough superlatives in the English vocabulary to describe the manner in which this Barcelona team play their football. For seven minutes in the first half it rendered me speechless.
Barca were simply unstoppable – scoring three devastating goals that rocked Racing to their very core and put the game out of sight in under 30 minutes.
Rarely has a side monopolised possession so soon after crossing the white line, and so often. The only surprise was that it took almost ten minutes for the Catalans to create a clear chance on goal.
Swedish striking sensation Zlatan Ibrahimovic showed great strength to hold off and turn his man inside the box, only to screw his shot woefully wide.
A shoot-on-sight policy was adopted by Barca soon after to no great affect, but, despite several poor efforts on goal, it was impossible to envisage this side not hitting the net sooner or later.
They had to withstand a period of pressure from the home side as a bloodied Gerald Pique received treatment on the sidelines for a gash to the head.
But it was a false dawn and Barcelona took the lead on 20 minutes.
The instrumental Xavi played a central free-kick wide for Messi to cut inside and whip in a cross to the far post where Ibrahimovic was on hand to powerfully head home and make it four goals in his first four games in La Liga.
The prolific Swede could have made it five in four just seconds later. A defensive error sent him clear on goal but his attempt to place the ball into the far corner failed as he hit the foot of the post from a tight angle.
It didn’t matter. Three minutes later the Catalan side doubled their lead.
A devastating change of pace in Barca’s attack and intricate passing between Xavi and Messi around the box resulted in a drop of the shoulder by the brilliant Argentine and a beautiful curling effort into the far corner.
Barca completed their passage of Racing decimation on 27 minutes.
Ibrahimovic showcased his strength again, this time holding off several defenders in the six-yard box to play a clever backheel into Pique. The young Spaniard steadied himself for the easiest of finishes past helpless Racing goalkeeper Tono four yards from goal.
The European champions were denied a fourth by the offside flag on the stroke of half-time.
Within a minute of the restart, Ibrahimovic appeared to turn his ankle and, despite his attempts to stay on the field, was duly replaced by Pedro on 53 minutes.
His departure saw a drop in tempo for Barca as they slid into cruise control and Valdes was forced into his first save of the evening in the 55th minute.
Dani Alves’ sloppy cross-field pass was easily cut out by Arana and hit straight at the Spanish goalkeeper from 25 yards.
Barcelona, despite taking their foot off the pedal, refused to surrender possession for any significant spells and their dominance was confirmed just after the hour mark.
Lionel Messi reaffirmed his position as the best footballer on the planet with a moment of magic that those who watch Barcelona on a regular basis will have become accustomed to.
The dominative forward took on and beat three or four players as he cut inside from the right to strike the ball venomously left-footed from the edge of the area into the top corner – his seventh goal of the season.
It was to be his last contribution as he was replaced by Iniesta allowing him to sign off in style.
Racing finally gave the home fans something to cheer in the 72nd minute.
Oscar Serrano beat second-half substitute Marquez with ease and hammered the ball in off the post with the outside of his left boot from 20 yards.
The game ran its course from then on with Barca dominating possession in what has proved a tough fixture for the Catalans in recent years.
The only minor criticism, in an attacking sense, for Barcelona would be Henry’s failure to impose himself on the game and get off the mark at club level this season, having scored two goals of great importance for the French side in recent weeks.
Guardiola will again wish to address defensive issues of concentration as he did following the demolition of Atletico, but he will not be required to say anything else.
The camera spanned around the Estadio El Sardinero following Barca’s third on the half hour mark and the despondency of the home fans was plain to see, some were even reduced to tears. What they expected I do not know. What I do know is that they were witnessing a very, very special team.
Racing Santander: Tono, Pinillos, morris, Henrique, Sepsi, Arana, Diop (Colsa, 57), Lacen, Serrano, Geijo (Xisco, 57), Munitis (Luis Garcia, 70)
Barcelona: Valdes, Dani Alves, Pique (Marquez, 57), Puyol, Abidal, Xavi, Busquetys, Keita, Henry, Ibrahimovic (Pedro, 53), Messi (Iniesta, 64)
Man of the Match: Lionel Messi – Absolutely magical.
The evening’s other La Liga result:
Sevilla 2-0 Mallorca