Elche 0-6 Barcelona: Lionel Messi and Neymar strike doubles
Barcelona ( Agencies + DIPLOMAT.SO) – A thumping victory over Elche was probably how Luis Suarez imagined his 28th birthday would go, except he probably pictured himself among the goalscorers. Or on the pitch, at the very least.
It was painful for Suarez to watch Barcelona thrive in his absence, but there was one crumb of comfort.
Lionel Messi scored two and created two for Neymar, while the Brazilian made one of Messi’s goals and also played in Pedro to round off an emphatic victory.
The connection between the two South Americans is Barcelona’s strongest link and Suarez will note how much that link has developed this season, whereas last season they were rarely on the same wavelength.
As well as benching Suarez, Enrique also left Ivan Rakitic out of the squad to save him for the Copa del Rey clash with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, a bold move considering the Croatian’s form in recent weeks,
That said, in the two cup matches against Enrique’s team earlier this month Elche shipped a total of nine goals.
Added to the 3-0 win Barcelona recorded on the first day of the season, the hosts were a total of 12-0 down against the Catalan giants coming into this game, so it wasn’t that risky a decision.
Jordi Alba went close early on, volleying narrowly over the bar after a well-worked free kick on the right. Messi went close with a direct effort from a similar position, the ball whistling past the top right corner.
At the other end, Claudio Bravo was called into action twice in quick succession, with Faycal Fajr denied by the Chilean after being played in by Jonathas, and again from a free kick.
But Barcelona began to turn up the pressure and Messi’s brilliant cross found Neymar at the back post, but the Brazilian uncharacteristically fluffed his lines.
Gerard Pique made no such error when a clever quick free-kick by Xavi found him on the left-hand side of the six-yard box. He chested the ball down and then lashed it past Przemyslaw Tyton.
Pique’s story of redemption has mirrored Barcelona’s own upturn in form in recent weeks. This was the sixth game since David Moyes’ Real Sociedad sunk the blaugrana at Anoeta, and the sixth victory.
The centre-back has played a key part in the winning streak, after a start to the season that was notable only for glaring errors both off and on the pitch. Pique has really started to focus though, and it’s paying dividends for Barcelona.
Elche have been playing better themselves in recent weeks, matches against Barcelona aside, beating Athletic Club and Levante.
They never looked like changing their poor form against Barcelona at the Martinez Valero though, and Messi doubled his side’s lead from the penalty spot after Neymar was fouled by Sergio Pelegrin.
The Argentine missed a penalty against Atletico Madrid in midweek, the 14th time he has failed from the spot in his career, but made no mistake here. He waited for Tyton to waver and coolly slotted into the bottom left corner.
When Fajr was sent off for a second yellow card midway through the second period, it was clear the game was up for Elche. In truth, it had never really begun.
Messi continued his hot streak, playing in a more central role, with Pedro on the right and Suarez on the bench. Like at the start of the season, his focus in this position was to create for his team-mates instead of trying to score himself.
That was evidenced by the two goals he set up for Neymar. He slid the Brazilian in for his first and then, three minutes later, played a gorgeous chip over the top for Neymar to bag the fourth for Barcelona.
There were other sublime contributions from Messi, one similar lofted through-ball for Alba headed back towards Neymar, but the forward couldn’t beat Tyton to the ball.
Messi eventually scored from open play towards the end, with Marc Bartra’s perfectly weighted pass coming in to the No 10’s lightning-quick feet. A quick shimmy by Messi and a low, stroked finish, and the ball was nestled in the helpless Tyton’s bottom-right corner.
Finishing the rout off in stoppage time, making it 18-0 to Barcelona over the season and probably rubbing salt in Suarez’s wounds, was Pedro, the man who took the Uruguayan’s place, tapping home at the back post after a brilliant solo dribble by Neymar.
Suarez is set to return on Wednesday against Atletico, but the pressure on his shoulders will be greater than ever.For more news and stories, join us on Facebook,Twitter , or contact us through our Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org