It wasn't exactly pretty, or impressive, or conclusive, but FC Barcelona's 2-0 victory against Deportivo La Coruna was exactly what the doctor had ordered to stop the free fall and give some real hope for a remontada of the 2-0 defeat at San Siro in Tuesday's UEFA Champions League against Milan at the Camp Nou. With most of its principals on the bench or in the stands, the game was mostly an audition with public for some of the subs vying for a starting spot in the game that would define Barça's season.
From this standpoint there are not many encouraging signs. Only the much-maligned Alexis played well enough to give hope he can turn around a catastrophic campaign and become a real asset. The Chilean scored the first goal, assisted on the second, battled for every ball and had a few good, incisive one-on-one actions.
At the opposite end, fan favorite Villa, in a rare starting role, squandered many good scoring opportunities in the first half, when Barça showed interest and ambition if not clear vision in its offense. After this performance Villa may have lost some of the supporters who thought he could be the solution against Milan's tough defenders. Fabregas also may have played himself out of the starting lineup against Milan with the worst appearance of the season. He's right, Barça faithful are less patient with him, but this time he deserved the whistles.
Tello started well, then slowed down and made too many mistakes, but his speed (and youth) along with the willingness to take on a defender individually gives him an edge over Villa and usual starter Pedro. Thiago showed again he's a great talent but not a great player. He can't organize the game like Xavi--who does?--and is undisciplined, at times indolent. Song is a hard worker, adequate for this kind of games and opponents, but not for Milan.
With Barça hanging to a 1-0 lead and the game going nowhere--the visitors are last in La Liga for a good reason--Tito Vilanova called the bench from New York. Messi stepped in with just under 30 minutes left, then Iniesta, then Busquets. Barça needed the three points, and Messi provided the insurance with a golazo with three minutes left that brought light over the stadium.
It was Messi's 40th goal in La Liga this season (well ahead of last year's pace when he finished with 50) and his 17th straight league game with at least one goal. For those who keep stats, this is a world record. For those of us mesmerized by Messi's talent, another jewel in the crown. For those idiots who believe that human growth hormone has anything to do with what Messi does with a football-IT DOES NOT; you can take all the hormones in the world and Messi's ankle would still be smarter than your brains-take that! Send a note when your guy does that.
Another milestone: on the day Pinto, subbing for the suspended Valdes, became the oldest player ever at 37 years, 4 months, to play for the Blaugrana in a league game, Barcelona's defense kept a clean sheet, ending a disreputable 13-game streak. If they can repeat this against Milan, Messi will take care of the rest.
Vladimir Moraru played soccer for 15 years and has watched it for 60. He hasn't seen a player like Messi and a team like FC Barcelona.
- Sports & Recreation
- FC Barcelona
- Deportivo La Coruna