Sunday, December 16, 2012

December 16, 2012 8:00 PM UTC
Camp Nou — Barcelona
Referee:‬ Miguel Pérez‎
Attendance:‬ 86637‎

31' Falcao 36' Adriano 45' Busquets 57' 88' Messi

Barcelona 4-1 Atletico Madrid: Breathtaking Blaugrana move nine points clearTito Vilanova’s were slow out of the blocks but responded wonderfully to Falcao’s sublime opening goal, with Lionel Messi taking his tally for 2012 to 90 during a fine fightback
Barcelona extended their lead at the top of La Liga to nine points on Sunday with a stunning 4-1 victory over nearest rivals Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou.

Radamel Falcao opened the scoring with a sublime solo effort just after the half-hour mark, but Adriano levelled matters five minutes later with an equally spectacular strike before Sergio Busquets put the hosts ahead with cool finish just before the break.

Lionel Messi then struck twice during the second half to take his tally for the calendar year to a staggering 90 goals, thus sealing a resounding win which put their visitors very much in their place.

It was first vs second in Catalunya. Messi vs Falcao. But Barcelona glided to victory through a depressing air of predictability. On Saturday, Tito Vilanova said that in any other league, Atletico would be top. But this isn’t any other league. And as the gap at the top grows, that between Atleti and their Madrid rivals continues to diminish.

As ever, Diego Simeone’s side were rigid and compact, intent on absorbing pressure and hitting their hosts on the counter. And Falcao very nearly gave them a shock lead inside the first 10 minutes, but saw his wonderfully flicked header bounce back off the inside of Victo Valdes’ post. Hearts were in Barca mouths again when Colombian raced clear of Carles Puyol after 23 minutes overstretching to drag his shot wide.

Falcao rarely misses – his 16 league goals prior to this evening had arrived via just 52 shots this season. He was never going to miss another, and he opened the scoring with a wonderful goal after half an hour. When Messi lost possession in midfield, Falcao pulled square to receive a short pass. His first touch took him away from Busquets on the halfway line before racing clear to delicately lift his left-footed finish over Valdes.

Barca had failed to carve out a single chance by then, their only two efforts on goal arriving as Messi sent one free kick into the wall and another into the stands. Atleti remained compact; Barca kept probing, waiting for you know who to step up.

But instead it was Adriano who provided a moment of genius. The Brazilian, shifted over to right-back with Dani Alves having just recovered from injury, drew the Blaugrana level with solo effort of his own just five minutes later, cutting inside from the right and smashing his curling shot in off the under side of Thibaut Courtois’ crossbar from the edge of the box.

The pendulum swung from that point, and Barca went ahead right on the stroke of half-time when Pique nodded a corner back across goal to Busquets. The Barca midfielder’s spatial awareness is an attribute often overlooked, and it was evident as he took a touch on the edge of the six-yard box before ducking inside Mario Suarez and firing past Courtois.

Messi had been oddly quiet for almost an hour, but the inevitable arrived after 57 minutes when he skipped around Juanfran to curl his shot into the bottom corner from 18 yards for his 89th goal of 2012.

Messi then grabbed his 34th of the season to round off the scoring with four minutes remaining after collecting Diego Godin’s awful attempt at a back heel inside in his own area to lift the ball over Courtois from close range.

Atletico failed to create a chance in the second period and will be disappointed with their performance after such a promising start.

Yet this defeat should take nothing away from the job Diego Simeone has done since arriving in Madrid. Atleti remain a work in progress – a considerable amount of which has been made over the first half of the La Liga season. And they end the year rightly positioned as the second best team in the country.

For Barcelona, this was a good end to a fabulous first half of life under Tito, with 16 wins and a one draw during what has been the best start to a La Liga season by any side ever. 

You get the feeling the New Year may well bring more of the same for both sides. 

Real Madrid 2-2 Espanyol: Brittle Blancos blow chance to close gap

The Portuguese forward and compatriot Fabio Coentrao looked to have wrapped up the points for the hosts but a late equaliser from Juan Angel Albin stunned the Bernabeu faithful

After coming from behind to lead, Real Madrid failed to close out the game as they stuttered to a 2-2 draw at home to Espanyol.

Los Merengues' midweek malaise looked set to continue in the capital as Sergio Garcia gave Javier Aguirre's side the lead in the 31st minute. Goals from Portuguese pair Cristiano Ronaldo and Fabio Coentrao relieved the Santiago Bernabeu faithful but a late equaliser from Juan Angel Albin ensured more points were dropped by the hosts, who had been hoping to take advantage of the fact that Liga's top two, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, were meeting at Camp Nou later in the evening.

Ronaldo, who started the game as a striker, was finding plenty of space in the early exchanges. After firing wide in the second minute, he fed Luka Modric in space on the left but the Croatian fared no better, shanking his shot past the far post.

Los Blancos were running into a lot of congestion in the centre of the opposing half but great first touch from Modric enabled to work the space to get a shot away. His strike arrowed towards the bottom corner but despite beating Kiko Casilla it only rattled the post.

Yet the defensive complacency that had allowed Simao in earlier in the half reared its head again in the 31st minute, and this time it proved costly. Verdu slid a pass up to Garcia, who bullishy raced through a big hole left by Sergio Ramos and Pepe before adding a cool finish to silence the stadium.

Ronaldo was denied by Casilla in the 40th minute after an exquisite Ozil pass but he got the equaliser on the stroke of half-time. Sami Khedira's delivery found the 27-year-old at the back post and he beat Javi Lopez to the cross to stab the ball into the net.

Jose Mourinho clearly had strong words for his players during the break as the emerged for the second half with renewed vigour. 

It took them just three minutes to go ahead as Ronaldo picked out Coentrao with a lovely reverse pass as he surged into the area. The left-back controlled the ball tightly before sweeping a low shot past Casilla.

The keeper did well not to let the game get away from his side with a trio of excellent saves, first from Alvaro Arbeloa, and then twice from Angel di Maria, the second of which was a deflected effort that was tipped onto the bar.

Casilla continued to thwart the hosts' attempts to find a third in a pulsating second half, this time keeping out Ozil with a brilliant near-post stop, after a delightful pass from Di Maria had put the German in on goal.

But Madrid were unable to hold out for the win and second-half substitute Albin was in the right place at the right time to slot home after a goalmouth scramble in the 88th minute.

Defeat means Mourinho's men will need a favour from their city rivals Ateltico, who can stop Barcelona opening a 14-point gap at the top of La Liga with a win at Camp Nou.

Messi - 41 + Villa 10 + Fabregas 8 + Adriano 6 + Xavi 4 + Iniesta 3 + Sanchez 3

Info : Barcelona Scorer This Season in all Competition

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