Victor Valdes made a vital triple save in the 15th minute
Barça ended the first round of League games in the best way possible. Away at the imposing Malaga, it was a fantastic display, based on control of the match and efficiency in front of goal. Valdes kept the team alive at the beginning and a monumental Messi guaranteed the three points that take them into the Clasico with their morale really high. With his umpteenth hat-trick, Messi has now scored 22 goals in the League Championship.
Triple save by Valdes
Barça, with a four man defence and Adriano on the left wing, took the field against a Malaga team who tried to make them feel uncomfortable by applying intense pressure high up the pitch. Moving the ball towards the opponent’s goal was not easy. Barça’s best option was connecting with Messi as he dropped off into midfield, and he came close with the first chance for Barça, who were excellent in winning the ball back.
However, right at the end of the first quarter of an hour, Victor Valdes was their saviour: first he practically flew to deflect a shot from Isco, and from the resultant corner, the keeper again popped up to block a double strike from the Malaga player. Three consecutive saves from the Barça keeper.
Messi scores with a header.
Gradually, Barça imposed their technical superiority in midfield, and Messi was the channel for the Barça attacks. In the 32nd minute, the three time Ballon d’Or winner put a ball out wide for Adriano, and then met the Brazilian’s cross to place a header into the back of the net, just like a heading specialist. The Argentinian’s 20th goal of the season gave the away team confidence, and they had over 70% of the possession, even though Malaga were trying to play football.
The situation was under control, but with the lesson learned, Barça came out with the intention of killing off the game. In minute 47, Willy Caballero managed to save 2 Thiago efforts (one from another great Adriano cross), but Alexis was on the spot to make it 2-0. Almost immediately after that Messi recovered the ball, and with a trademark slalom he got to the edge of the box, and placed an unstoppable shot past Caballero.
The 3-0 lead saw the current Champions in a very comfortable position. Guardiola took off Alexis, Adriano (with muscle problems), and Iniesta, in view of the Cup match on Wednesday. Cuenca, Dos Santos, and Pedro came on. Meanwhile, Malaga were not giving up and went looking for a consolation goal.
On the other hand, Messi was still doing his thing, and sent a masterfully executed free-kick against the crossbar (min 74). A short while later the best player in the World put the icing on the cake with a fabulous goal, after picking up the ball in midfield, and finally scoring with a subtle cross-shot into the net. Rondon got the consolation goal, and made it 4-1 right at the end of a spectacular display.