FC Barcelona played host to their crosstown rivals Espanyol in a thrilling derby match on Sunday.
However, the excitement was all in Barcelona’s favor as the Catalan giants dominated the game and made the play of the visitors almost nonexistent. Every player performed remarkably for Barcelona, but Espanyol will clearly be in a relegation battle for the rest of the season.
Pedro was the performer of the night as the Spanish attacker found the net four times, although he was incorrectly flagged for offside twice. But the calls did not matter as La Blaugrana ended the game in a furiously dominant 4-0 victory.
Barcelona came out firing after the first whistle blew. La Blaugrana immediately showed that the break had been used wisely and that Tito Vilanova had his men prepared.
Espanyol struggled to keep possession as the high-pressuring Barcelona continued to hassle any opponent unlucky enough to have the ball. In fact, the visitors rarely kept the ball for over five seconds.
It was indeed Barcelona who scored first as the ball was played through the box to find a waiting Xavi, who slotted home from close. After only 10 minutes it looked as if the Catalan giants were ready to take over.
At this point, Barcelona decided to completely take over the game.
Five minutes after Xavi scored, Pedro was able to finally find the back of the net after a long scoring drought. Cesc Fábregas beautifully beat multiple defenders in the box to play a pass to the waiting Pedro, who finished calmly.
The Pedro goal was a wonderful sign for Barcelona. Every winger struggled in the first half of the season and someone needed to get going. This game could nudge Pedro to an exciting second half of play.
However, the 27th minute would give fans one of the most brilliant moments of the season.
Defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets played a ball from half field to a streaking Pedro who chipped past the keeper for an immaculate finish. The joy was very evident on the Spaniard’s face after he netted his brace.
The pass from Busquets was one of the best of his surprisingly young career.
At this point, the Espanyol players carried an aura of discouragement. It was clear that the visitors knew they had already been beaten as they continued to struggle to make anything happen.
With three goals for Barcelona and not a single one from Lionel Messi, La Blaugrana looked the best I have seen them in over two years.
But the half would not end there. Cesc Fábregas, who looked to constantly be a threat, found a loose ball in the box. The Catalan midfielder touched the ball past the keeper, who took him down in the box in a controversial way.
The referee immediately pointed to the spot, but the call was simply a toss-up. Lionel Messi stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way as he scored his first goal of 2013.
Barcelona left the field with an enjoyable 4-0 lead at the half, while the Espanyol players walked off looking physically beaten.
The second half began a little differently than the previous half. Espanyol finally settled in as Barcelona decided to take the pressure off.
Though the giants of Catalonia continued to pressure the Espanyol defense, it was clear that they were not as purposeful in their attack.
Tempers began to flair as this was El Derbi Barceloni.
Nearing the 60th minute, Gerard Pique was brought down in his own box. The play was purely innocent but it showed the frustration of the Espanyol players.
The first substitutes came in the 62nd minute as the Barcelona maestro, Xavi, was brought off for the impressive Thiago Alcantara. Moments later Barcelona turned up the technique as a few back heels brought more beauty to the match.
The game soon died down as it seemed both teams already knew the outcome was settled. Barcelona did find the net through a Fábregas pass to Pedro, but Fábregas was incorrectly called offside before the pass was played.
David Villa excited fans when he was brought on. The Spaniard looked incredible as soon as he stepped on the pitch as his speed and touch added to the Barcelona attack.
The 72nd minute against brought intrigue as Dani Alves played a ball across the box to Pedro, who found the back of the net for the fourth time. Again the offside flag was shown in what could have been a wrong call.
Either way, Pedro’s night was remarkable and Cules everywhere will be hoping the form is here to stay.
Espanyol had their first real chance in the 80th minute when Pique gave the ball away near his own box. Victor Valdes squared up to face the attacker and made a beautiful save to keep the clean sheet.
Moments later Lionel Messi found the woodwork from a free kick. The goal would have been yet another brace for Messi, but the post has been a constant enemy for the Argentine this season.
The second was fairly slow overall, but the final minutes were full of action as Barcelona were clearly looking for a fifth goal. The goal would not come, however; though it would have been well deserved.
And thus ends the unbeaten start for Espanyol under Javier Aguirre. Barcelona remain undefeated in La Liga action as their lead at the top of the table looks as safe as ever.
Takeaways from the Barcelona Win
The greatest thing for Barcelona will be the return of manager Tito Vilanova. The Catalan boss looked healthy and stress free on the sideline and obviously had his team prepared.
This is a wonderful sign for the rest of the season.
Pedro will also be excited about his performance. The New Year is a great stage to turn his season around and La Blaugrana needs the winger to contribute to take the pressure off of Lionel Messi.
At this point, La Liga appears to be over. Not only because of the gap Barcelona hold at the top of the table, but because of the amazing form the Catalans are showing.
Espanyol look increasingly likely to be relegated this season. Their play against Barcelona was lacking. Not only did the visitors play bad, but the hunger of a derby match against the league leaders was absolutely not present.
Overall, this was the best Barcelona has played in over two years.
Tito Vilanova is doing a wonderful job with the club and the treble looks more likely if this form continues. Almost every player deserves an A for their work, which shows just how good the night was for La Blaugrana.
What are your thoughts on the Barcelona derby? Has Barcelona shown they are the team to beat in world football? Is Pedro finally back? Will Espanyol be relegated?
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