The headlines lauded the ‘MSN’ trident, after Barcelona ostensibly crushed Eibar 0-4. Certainly, they deserve it. To have reached 100 goals at this stage in the season is simply incredible. Especially when you consider that that’s around 20 more goals than their closest rivals, Atletico Madrid, have mustered as a team in all competitions.
Yet despite their brilliance, showcased particularly by Lionel Messi on Sunday, the victory at the Ipurua Municipal Stadium wasn’t quite as convincing as the score line made out. In fact, had Messi been wearing navy blue, the score line could well have been reversed.
Perhaps that’s being harsh on La Blaugrana, but were it not for the little Argentinian, Eibar could have lead at half time. For it was Messi’s incredible ‘long ball’ over their defence which lead to Munir El Haddadi’s first goal. That pass in itself deserved an assist and if you haven’t seen it, do. But in true David and Goliath style, Eibar battled back, and had arguably some of the best chances of the match.
Much has been said about the ‘makeshift’ Barcelona central pairing of Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano the last few years, in fact ever since the retirement of the beastly Carles Puyol. In the first half, both Pique and Mascherano, looked uncharacteristically dishevelled by Eibar’s high pressing game. Fortunately for them, Los Armeros weren’t able to capitalise on their mistakes, which included botched clearances and messy side rule passes.
There may have been an inkling of complacency, as even Sergio Busquets was at it, losing possession on various occasions in midfield. Now that is a rarity. In fact, it was only when Messi dropped deep to pick up the ball that the Eibar pressing relaxed. They knew that there was one man they weren’t going to get the ball off. Ultimately it was Barcelona’s all-time top scorer who struck the second deadly blow, as he tap-danced his way around the opposition defence to score an excellent solo goal. Eibar 0-2 Messi.
Eibar, understandably, tired as the game progressed, a consequence of their high pressing game. Yet they put in a valiant effort and should be proud of their first half performance especially. They asked questions of the Barcelona defence which have been masked by a landmark goal record. The reigning champions will have to play better if they are to maintain their unbeaten record until the end of the season. Then again, you only need one Messi to win a game.