Perfect players don’t come along too often, but Lionel Messi is probably one of the few. Any problem Barcelona were having or usually have this season is simply hidden behind the fact of having the best player in the world, who at times makes us feel that the only reason he doesn’t score more goals is because it’s too easy for him and he gets bored.
Messi scored a hat trick without doing much on the pitch. Not too much motion, especially in the second half, when Barcelona were playing with one man less. Still, his stroke of brilliance in the 77th minute, capping off a hat trick (11 league goals) after a fantastic spin & shake followed by some nice body twisting to throw off two defenders and accurately find the corner was just Messi being Messi. Magical, but possibly just doing it to shake off the boring minutes of the match, at least to him.
A match that looked finished 18 minutes in turned into one of the best we’ve seen in Europe this season, courtesy of a referee, Jose Paradas, that missed every big decision he had to make in the match. Deportivo made their comeback through a penalty that didn’t happen, and even if Paradas did actually see a foul, it wasn’t inside the box. This brought Deportivo back into the match through Pizzi.
The second half began with another Pizzi goal, and a second yellow card that shouldn’t have been drawn out to Javier Macherano. His first yellow card wasn’t warranted as well. But when Paradas is wrong, he goes all-in with his mistakes. Referee mistakes you enjoy (Cesc Fabregas against Sevilla) usually come back to haunt you at a certain point. It doesn’t matter if Lionel Messi is around.
The good and bad for Barcelona? The defense is still a patch-job. Alex Song makes Javier Macherano cover too much ground because he still hasn’t figured out how to position himself or how to stop players like a centre back would instead of a defensive midfielder. Not his fault, but Vilanova is adamant not to switch Busquets back to centre back, which he did reasonably well last season.
Jordi Alba, as much as he’s fun to watch on his bursts forward which also opened the scoring, forgets that he’s a left back at times. Barcelona’s 3-4-3 during their offensive moments works well with a solid duo in the back, say Pique and Puyol. A bit more of responsibility, not to mention avoiding mental meltdowns like his own goal execution is something he’ll have to work on.
The rotation up front didn’t work. David Villa seems to have a lot more influence on the match when coming in as a substitute. Having a real striker didn’t add anything to Barcelona’s game, because Villa looked very rusty and slow, mistimed and simply out of sync with his teammates. Cristian Tello had the same kind of forgettable effect on the match.
Someone who did have a major impact until he was substituted in the 61st minute to slow things down was Cesc Fabregas, who finished the match with 3 assists. More important than the numbers is his confidence in being the playmaker alongside Andres Iniesta, giving Barcelona the very aggressive nature from the get go. Once they were with 10 players, his abilities to hold up play aren’t nearly as effective as Xavi’s. For the scoring and the pushing forward, having Lionel Messi on the pitch was enough.