FC Barcelona 5 - 0 RCD Mallorca
DESPITE the humidity in
Catalonia on Saturday evening, it rained
goals as Barcelona watered down Gregorio
Manzano's Mallorca side and French defender
Eric Abidal returned to a hero's welcome at the Nou Camp.
The Frenchman had not played for
first team since February 2012, following the announcement of his pending liver
transplant. Remarkably, the defender is playing football once again when many
feared he would be unable to continue. After utilising the B team to return to
complete match fitness, Abidal nervously filled in at centre-back after replacing
Gerard Pique on the 70th minute, and his initial touches and passes
were celebrated by the crowd who were witnessing an inspirational, emotional and unique comeback in the world of sport. Barcelona
Tito Vilanova, another recent absentee, returned to the managerial area of the welcoming Nou Camp for the fixture against
Mallorca, who are grounded
at the foot of La Liga. Deportivo de la Coruna's third successive win on
Saturday evening propelled them from bottom place, leaving the islanders rather
As expected, the intentionally weakened
who lacked the injured Messi and therefore played Cesc Fábregas at centre-forward, had one
eye on the Champions League quarter-final home tie against Paris Saint-Germain
on Wednesday. They found their feet early on and began overwhelming their
opposition with the hypnotic tiki-taka that the omniscient, current
generation is well-known for. Mallorca's defence, notably the club captain José Nunes, put up a
feeble attempt at halting the rhythmic tidal wave that is Barcelona 's attack. Barcelona
In the first half, Andres Iniesta, as usual, played with such urgency that he does in any football match, regardless whether it is a world cup final or a match against the bottom of Liga Primera; and, with the space Los Bermellones gifted la Blaugrana in both midfield and attack, Iniesta played with evident, determined freedom. Like an animal released from its cage, the captain on the evening savoured every moment on the pitch, and was later subject to a standing ovation as he was substituted.
However, the goals came from the outstanding combination of Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez. The first, on the 20th minute and courtesy of the ex-Arsenal skipper, was completed once he played a one-two with his Chilean counterpart, leaving Nunes marking thin air and, ultimately, the ball rolling to a halt in the netting of
Mallorca's vulnerable goalposts. The
two then traded occupation moments later as Cesc's shot rebounded off the
sorrowful goalkeeper, Dudu Aouate, into the path of Sanchez, who subsequently
secured his name on the score sheet and effectively drowned any chances Mallorca
had of taking any points from Catalonia.
The ebb and flow of Barcelona's attack resulted in a further first half goal, when Fábregas commissioned his second give-and-go with Sanchez, floated through the Mallorca defence, reclaimed the ball and finished with style past the goalkeeper, who could do little to prevent the inevitable outcome.
Once again, two minutes later, Sanchez followed suit, bursting into the box as his telepathic, in-form colleague Fábregas floated a lengthy pass directly into the Chilean's path. Nunes, unsurprisingly, made no intervention whatsoever to prevent the ball ending up the goal - which was exactly what happened, rounding off the first half's goals five minutes before the break.
Dani Alves' efforts in the first half, which carried on for the majority of the match, were outstanding. The Brazilian was constantly looking out for one-twos, making crosses, cutting inside and bombarding up the right-hand side of the pitch with the speed and determination of an overflowing, raging river.
Cristian Tello, additionally, made a positive impression upon those watching due to his linking up with Iniesta both inside of
and around it; his spatial awareness and his willingness to chase every ball
down gained him a fair amount of praise as he integrates himself into the first
|Eric Abidal's return to first team football at Barcelona is a miraculous one, and one which will inspire countless athletes across the vast sporting world|
Although, after the final goal of the game was crafted one minute after the restart and Fábregas' first ever league hat-trick was complete, the pace did significantly slow and the creativity of the substituted Iniesta was missed. Barca still created chances at will, of course, and this was down to the fact that the resigned
had finished digging their own grave and were rather happy to clamber into it,
lie down and wait for the final whistle.
Ultimately, it was a simple encounter for
Barcelona and a nightmarish
one for Mallorca. Nunes' ears are most likely
still ringing from the telling off he will undoubtedly have received from
Gregorio Manzano, whereas ’s
second string carried out their instructions well, paving the way for Wednesday’s
Champions League adventure. Barcelona
Should Lionel Messi not be fully recovered in order to face Carlo Ancelotti's PSG on Wednesday, both Sanchez and Fábregas can rightly claim a place in the starting eleven who will be fully motivated by the reassurance and discipline of having their leader Tito Vilanova growing in strength.
La Blaugrana, with two away goals and hosting the second leg, have a significant chance of progressing into the semi-finals of the Champions League should they seize the opportunity and submerge their opponents with their frequent briliance. With the determination of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to overhaul Vilanova’s side for previous disagreements, it may be an incredibly tight match; however, the odds are certainly in