Lionel Messi put on a first-half show against an overmatched Valerenga side as Barcelona cruised past the Norwegian side in preseason action, 7-0.
Barcelona started their preseason schedule with a 2-0 loss to defending European champions Bayern Munich, a side much further along in their preparations. There were no such struggles this time around, as the La Liga powerhouse was in complete control from the outset.
Alexis Sanchez got Barca on the scoreboard within the first five minutes. Messi found him flying down the wing uncovered and delivered a perfect pass. Sanchez proceeded to use some nifty moves in the box before slotting it past Valerenga goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld.
Cristian Tello stretched the lead to 2-0 just a few minutes later. Once again, Messi did the heavy lifting, playing a perfect ball to a sprinting Tello, who easily converted the golden opportunity. It was the type of play fans have come to expect from Barcelona.
The dominant start from Barca was complete after a tremendous individual effort from Messi. He dribbled his way through three defenders and found enough space to unleash a shot that found the net. Hirschfeld could have done better.
Barcelona started to slow down the pace after grabbing the 3-0 edge within the first quarter hour. In typical fashion, they controlled possession, moving the ball around the Valerenga defenders with trademark simplicity.
They did add one more goal before halftime, as Jonathan dos Santos took a pass from Alexis and beat Hirschfeld. The Valerenga keeper again failed to handle a stoppable shot.
After halftime, Barcelona made a trio of changes. As always, the club is working to get plenty of players involved during the early portion of the preseason. The most notable switch saw the dynamic Messi get replaced by Jean Marie Dongou.
It didn't take long for the 18-year-old forward to get involved in the rout. He scored twice within his first 10 minutes on the pitch. Both times, Sanchez, who had an extraordinary showing, picked up the assist with a nice passing play.
As Barcelona continued to filter substitutes into the match, their run-of-play advantage lessened. Valerenga actually created a couple chances in the middle of the second half, but reserve goalkeeper Oier Olazabal was up to the task each time.
Finally, Joan Roman capped the scoring for Barcelona inside the final five minutes of regulation time.
Lionel Messi (Barcelona): A
A simply sublime performance by the Argentine international. Although the level of competition wasn't very high, his ability to make highlight-reel play after highlight-reel play was still impressive. To say he was already in midseason form would probably be an understatement. An awesome showing.
Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona): A
Earning the same grade as Messi wasn't easy, but Sanchez earned it. He was a constant threat on the attack, working on the wing and making easy work of defenders when cutting to the middle. The result was a goal and plenty of chances created. A job very well done for the 24-year-old forward.
Lars Hirschfeld (Valerenga): F
It's understandable that his back line was no match for the high-octane Barcelona attack. That said, there were at least two occasions when Hirschfeld should have done better to parry chances away. Valerenga were never going to win, but a couple decent stops and the scoreline is more respectable.
Morten Berre (Valerenga): C-
Berre is a talented player who's enjoying a very solid season in the Tippeligaen. He just didn't get enough touches to make a serious impact on the match. Going up against Barcelona was always going to be a difficult challenge for the entire club, and his average showing summed up the performance.
Barcelona Starters' Grades
|GK||Jose Manuel Pinto||C|
|MF||Jonathan dos Santos||B|
Valerenga Starters' Grades
Barcelona continue their preseason schedule with a matchup against Polish side Lechia Gdansk on Tuesday. The matches that actually count are now less than a month away.
Valerenga will return to Tippeligaen action against Sarpsborg on Monday. They currently sit in the middle of the table, 13 points off the pace of leaders Rosenborg.