Saturday, October 29, 2011

Messi scores his 'hat-trick' in a 5-0 win against Mallorca

Lionel Messi answered his critics with a superbly taken hat-trick inside the opening half-hour at Camp Nou as the Blaugrana thrashed Mallorca 5-0 on Saturday.

The Argentine striker had gone three matches without scoring, evoking criticism for his recent performances. But Barcelona’s No. 10 responded in emphatic fashion.

Messi scored his first from the penalty spot inside the opening 15 minutes, giving him the perfect reprisal for his miss from 12 yards against Sevilla. He had his second soon after with an easy finish six yards out and goal No. 199 came after 28 minutes.

Isaac Cuenca added a fourth with his first senior goal and a stunning Dani Alves strike completed the rout which helped lift Barcelona to the top of the league ahead of Real Madrid’s clash against Sociedad.

Barcelona dominated the early possession but it was Mallorca which came closest to taking the lead when Joao Victor burst onto a low cross only to divert his shot wide of the target.

And Mallorca was left ruing that miss when it found itself a goal down not long afterwards when Emilio Nsue handled inside the penalty area giving Messi the chance to end his goal draught. The Argentine steadied himself before converting the spot kick in emphatic fashion rifling the ball into the top corner of the net.

Youngster Cuenca then tormented Pedro Bigas before sending a devilish cross to the far post which Adriano volleyed, somewhat fortunately, into the path of Messi to double Barcelona's lead 21 minutes in.

Messi had completed his hat-trick inside 30 minutes with a beautifully taken half-volley after Dani Alves swung a cross into the Argentines path who struck the ball perfectly with his left foot moving his Barcelona record to 199 goals in all competitions.

Barcelona started the second half in similar fashion and had its fourth of the night when Cuenca rounded Aouate before hammering in his first-ever senior goal following Adriano’s intricately placed through-ball.

There was still time for Alves to add a fifth goal when he attempted an audacious shot from distance which dipped viciously below the crossbar to ensure it was a five-star performance for Guardiola’s men.

Mallorca failed to pressurize the Barcelona defense as the came sauntered to an end with Joaquin Capparros turning his attention to the match against Sevilla in pursuit of his first win as Mallorca’s coach.

Barcelona (5): Valdés; Dani Alves, Mascherano, Abidal (Piqué 45'), Adriano; Busquets (Puyol 59'), Keita, Thiago; David Villa (Deulofeu 64'), Messi, Cuenca.

Mallorca (0): Aouate; Cendros, Chico, Ramis (Crespí 45'), Bigas; Martí (Casadesús 74'), Joao, Chori Castro, Nsue; Candela, Tissone (Zuiverloon 45')

Goalscorers: Messi {1-0. 13' PK), Messi (2-0. 21'), Messi (3-0. 30'), Cuenca (4-0. 50'), Dani Alves (5-0. 90'+2)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Levante remains unbeatable in La Liga

Levante extended their remarkable early-season run when they beat 10-man Malaga 3-0 on Sunday to rejoin champions Barcelona at the top of La Liga.

The tiny Valencia-based club, whose annual budget of around 20 million euros ($27.7 million) is dwarfed by Barca's approximate 500 million, took the lead through Jose Barkero in the 14th minute before Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero was shown a straight red card for handling outside his area.

His replacement Ruben saved the resulting free kick but Juanlu, one of a slew of Levante players over 30 years old, was quickest to react and poked the loose ball in to double the home side's lead with just over half an hour gone.

A Ruben howler gifted Levante a third in the 41st minute when he failed to clear and Arouna Kone, who scored the only goal in Levante's shock 1-0 win over Real Madrid last month, broke clear to tap the ball into an empty net.

Levante's fifth successive victory put them level on 17 points with Barca, who are top on goal difference after seven matches.

Ambitious and free-spending Malaga, owned by a member of the Qatar royal family and with a budget of around 150 million euros, are sixth on 13 points.

Levante's coach Juan Ignacio Martinez told a news conference it was important to remain realistic about what the club could achieve this season and said avoiding relegation was still the main objective.

"We have to enjoy this but we know that the league is very long and we are bound to suffer accumulating points," he said.

"We will achieve our goal of 42 points (to avoid relegation) in April, although hopefully I am wrong about that," he added.
Levante (3): Munua; Nano, Ballesteros, Juanfran, Javi Venta; Farinos, Iborra (79' Pallardo), Juanlu (66' El Zhar), Valdo; Koné, Barkero (70' Rubén Suárez)

Málaga (0): Caballero; Mathijsen, Demichelis, Monreal, Gamez; Maresca (29' Rubén), Toulalan, Isco, Cazorla (45' Sebastian Fernandez), van Nistelrooy (45' Rondon), Joaquín

Red Card: Caballero (27')
Goalscorers: Barkero (14' 1-0), Juanlu (30' 2-0), Koné (41' 3-0)