Final within reach (5-0)
Barça got the job done with an excellent result in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi final against Almeria. Goals from Messi (2), Villa and Pedro in the first half and a late strike from Keita have FCB as good as in the final.
Barcelona (FCB).- Almeria have been absolutely torn apart by Barça this season. After crashing to 8-0 home defeat in the league, today the Catalans inflicted a resounding 5-0 defeat on the Andalusians, a result which almost certainly seems to have put and end to their Copa del Rey adventure. In a splendid first half hour, Barça had already scored four.
3-0 in 15 minutes
Barça started like lightning against a side that came to the Camp Nou with an ambitious game plan. It didn\u2019t work out, for the game was only 8 minutes old when Messi\u2019s shot from the edge of the area slipped through the hands of goalkeeper Esteban to make it 1-0. Moments later, Villa finished off a counter-attack started by Xavi with yet another goal that Esteban really should have been able to prevent (min 11).
Oltra\u2019s side continued playing deep and almost pulled one back from an indirect free kick inside the area, but Goitom hit the side netting. But with the opposition coming at them, Barça had acres of space in which to produce counter attacks, and Almeria once again paid the price for their daredevil approach when Messi struck home a beautiful effort to make it three. And that was after only a quarter of an hour!
Their ambition thwarted, Almeria finally opted take a more defensive line, and their forays on the Barça half became rarer and rarer. Barça resorted to their usual possession game, stringing together passes with ease. The goal that made it 4-0 came from a set piece. Xavi crossed in a wide free kick, and there was Pedro to head the ball home in his 100th appearance for the club.
Barça in control
In an electrifying encounter, the respective goalkeepers both produced excellent saves before the half was over, Alemria\u2019s coming amid roars of discontent from the home fans following a foul on Xavi. But after all the excitement of the first 45 minutes, the second half was an altogether more subdued affair, with Barça controlling almost all the play, and Almeria far less willing to allow them any space for manoeuvre.
Guardiola\u2019s side defended their convincing lead in style, but with Almeria packing their defence in what had become a damage limitation exercise, the goalscoring chances were hard to find, although Maxwell hit the post in the 52nd minute and Esteban was forced to make two providential saves in the 61st. Barça could afford to showboat a little, as the fans fought the cold temperatures with a Mexican wave and by chorusing the names of their heroes.
Afellay\u2019s late entrance served to inject new life into the game, and the final minutes saw a further onslaught on the Almeria goal. That pressure eventually paid off with perhaps the finest goal of the night. Messi chipped the most delicate of passes through to Keita, whose control and finish provided a dazzling flash of brilliance to end yet another magnificent night at the Camp Nou. 5-0 again! The cup final is surely now just a matter of time.
1-0 Messi (min 9)
2-0 Villa (min 11)
3-0 Messi (min 15)
4-0 Pedro (min 30)
5-0 Keita (min 89)