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6 May 2012
• Camp Nou, Barcelona
Referee: Fernando Teixeira Vitienes
• Attendance: 98772
We'll leave it at that, as that's my cue for an exit. Messi stole the show during the match with a brilliant four goals, but the night only ever belonged to one man. From me, Keeghann Sinanan, it's been an absolute pleasure. And of course, farewell, and only the very best wishes to you, Pep Guardiola!
The microphone is now in Pep's hands as he addresses an adoring Camp Nou crowd. They hang on his every word, you can hear a pin drop.
The big screen is now flush with a montage of the highlights of Guardiola's reign, over the backdrop of Coldplay's Fix You. Not really a Coldplay fan to be honest, but it certainly fit there. Emotional stuff.
A message over the PA system passes on the tribute, wishing Guardiola all the best, and thanking him for their unprecedented success.
Camp Nou rises in unison as Guardiola completes his final home game in charge of Barcelona. The man himself steps onto the pitch, to a sea of handshakes, hugs, slaps, really, anything that the people on the pitch can do to show their appreciation.
90' + 3'
90' + 2'
Espanyol holding possession in the closing stages of the game in the Barca half. No one seems interested in doing anything productive with it though. Everyone's just waiting for full time.
90' + 1'
Three minutes of stoppage time signaled to end the match.
Yellow Card Carles Puyol
Free kick to the visitors after a foul by Puyol, earning him a yellow card. Weiss steps up to take it...but fires it into the arms of Pinto. There was never going to be anything there.
THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN 5!!! Messi is set on his way by Thiago past that high Espanyol backline once again, he advances on Alvarez, lifts the ball over the keeper, but it bounces agonizingly wide! He really needs to improve on his shooting touch, I think all will agree he's not clinical enough...
Yellow Card Tello
With the smoke clearing, here's some reaction on Twitter to Messi's salvo - "oh this guy is not a human being!"..."messi is destoying every record .......feeling proud on being his fan !"..."aaaaaaarrrrrgggggh!!!!!!!!!!! Messi!!!!!!!!!!! Dunno what else to say"..."Lionel Messi and Wayne Gretzky are the only ones I can think of to play at this level, yes?"..."I may be a Madrid fan, but Messi v Ronaldo = comparing two things incomparable."..."He is MESSIUS i.e ZEUS in the form of a footballer"
Any last reaction to close off the match? I'd love to hear from you on Twitter @keeghann!
Party time at Camp Nou for what remains. Espanyol have long ceased to be a factor in this game. From the time Messi struck his second just past the hour mark, it's been a one-way street through his feet.
The whole Barca team, lead by their inspirational Argentine, trek over the the dugout for a brilliant man-hug between Messi and Guardiola. The Camp Nou has basically exploded in delight. Fantastic scenes!
Andrés Iniesta Luján
Penalty Goal Lionel Messi
ITS HIM AGAIN! Messi has four! An identical strike to his earlier spot-kick, into the bottom right corner, with Alvarez once again guessing wrongly. 50 League goals for the season for Messi!!!!
No complaints from Espanyol as an infraction on Busquets is spotted. Guess who's stepping up to take it?
PENALTY TO BARCA!!!
49 League goals this season for Messi. His 20th hat-trick of his Barca career. I will now wipe the drool off my chin.
Goal Lionel Messi
MESSI MESSI MESSI!!!! Another hattrick!!! What a superb goal from the Argentine, taking a pass on the run, sprinting past his marker and smashing a fine finish past the despairing arm of Alvarez and into the corner! 71 and counting!
What the hell was Pinto doing? The Barca stand-in keeper has a rush of blood, rushing out to meet Weiss on an Espanyol break. He does not get near the ball though, leaving Weiss with an empty net to fire away at! But here comes Mascherano, tracking back, and nodding Weiss' shot just over the bar! Brilliant defending and insanely reckless goalkeeping!
20 minutes to go here in Catalunya. Keep those comments coming through on Twitter @keeghann!
Yellow Card Montoya
OPENING FOR ESPANYOL! Forlin is picked out on the overlap by a delightful clipped ball over the top, and takes it on the volley! But Pinto intervenes, with a strong hand to palm the ball away from danger! Good save!
Barca stroke the ball around with the consummate ease that only they can pull off as Espanyol are left chasing shadows. Camp Nou has found their voice again.
Espanyol floored by the second Barcelona goal. Not like they were exactly living life in the fast lane previously, but their interest in this game has presumably all but ended.
Yellow Card Dídac Vilà
Yellow Card Cristian Gómez
Penalty Goal Lionel Messi
MESSI MAKES HISTORY!!! He rolls the ball into the bottom right corner, comfortably sending Alvarez the wrong way. Yes folks, that's his 70th goal in all competitions this season. That is an obscene, disgustingly good total, insane stuff from the Argentine!
Yellow Card Cristian Alvarez
No surprises that Messi is involved in winning the spot-kick. He takes a touch in the box, tries to flick the ball centrally, and it bounces off the inadvertent forearm of Cristian Gomez! A tad harsh, but there you go. Only one man taking this...
PENALTY TO BARCELONA!
Javier López Rodríguez
Raul Banea goes tumbling in the area and looks with puppy dog eyes at the referee for a penalty. Nothing doing, and rightfully so.
Close from Adriano! He's come to life in the last two minutes or so, and cuts inside from the left before bending a shot from 25 yards out just a tad off target with Alvarez scrambling!
Indeed, you'd be hard pressed to find, outside one or two inexplicable haters, any Barca fan that would have traded the last four years for anything. This sentiment was perfectly encapsulated by the massive banner erected directly opposite the Barca bench pre-match, almost the height of the entire Camp Nou stand. An unassuming picture of Guardiola adorned it, and next to it read "T'Estimen Pep!"
Ramy Hamdy Mehelba probably sums up the feeling of many with his fondest memory of Pep Guardiola - "Best memories? The whole 4 years"
A shot of Mauricio Pochettino in the visiting dugout, looking visibly thinner than he did at the start of the season. I wonder why.
Barca launch a counter attack. The ball is played from Thiago to Iniesta. He brings it under control, opens his body up and fires a shot just past the post! First real chance of the second-half!
Espanol with a brief period of possession in the Barca half. But no one is making any runs off the ball. No one. Simply got to do better.
Here's one Pep memory from Omar Morsy - "The 5-0 drubbing of Madrid in November 2010 of course!"
Thiago sends Pedro racing down the right flank to chase what seems like an over-hit pass, but it slows down significantly, allowing Pedro time to lift his head, spot Messi in the box...and plant the cross onto the noggin of Moreno.
Barca slow coming out of the gates from the interval. They've kept the ball in Espanyol's half for the most part, but the radar on their passing and runs has been off.
Another from Linus Salminen - "This is a special night for every culé, Guardiolas last game at home and what could be better then to say goodbye after a derby!". Well Linus, the rest of the team better get their thumbs out, because apart from Messi, they're been a bit sloppy. Guardiola deserves a better show.
Twitter reaction - Orilogbon Kehinde and Ndu Martins both seem to think a Messi treble tonight is written in the stars.
Here we go again!
Given that it's Guardiola's home swansong, what are your best Pep memories over the years? Get in touch on Twitter @keeghann
Hardly a vintage performance from Barca as they don't seem fully invested in this game, yet take a 1-0 lead into the break. To be honest, neither do Espanyol, who have, apart from a set-piece or two, been MIA. Messi is the notable exception, as he has been at the centre of everything good for Barca, and seems hell bent on getting as many goals as he can. Shades of Cristiano Ronaldo at this time last season. Anyway, the second half is in a bit, so don't go anywhere!
45' + 1'
GOOOA...wait, side netting! A devlish effort from that left boot of his has Alvarez scrambling to cover. Lucky for him, it is bent into the wrong side of the net. That's enough for the ref, who blows for half-time!
Iniesta wins ANOTHER free kick on the left side. Messi has this in his sights...
Pedro advances down the left menacingly towards Forlin, but forgets the ball for one second and it bounces between his legs. Iniesta takes charge, but fares just as badly, as Rodriguez gets across to double team him into coughing up the ball.
Iniesta has to be the best player in the world at finding an inch of space to get past his man when crowded on the byline. Forlin is the fool this time, as Iniesta skips past him, plays a one-two with Pedro and sees a shot blocked at the last! Offside called, so it wouldn't have counted, but wonderfully quick feet.
Five minutes before the break. I've been loving your input on Twitter, so keep it going, @keeghann!
Shot of David Villa in the stands. How Barca have missed him. He may not always have been comfortable with his place out wide in their front three, but his eye for goal and willingness to shoot could well have been used amidst the general profligacy of Barca's 2011-12 season, outside Messi of course.
Camp Nou has gone into something of a lull in the past few minutes. It's not like Barcelona are hypnotizing them with their tiki-taka carousel. On the contrary, Espanyol's pressing and high backline has afforded the Blaugrana more space on the pitch and the chance to play with a bit more cut and thrust, rather than their patient probing.
Offside on Alvaro, who tried to punish the Barca high backline by latching on to a pass from Weiss. Espanyol have drifted out of the game in the last little while.
Messi again charging through the middle like a kid chasing after an ice cream truck. He beats one, he beats two, he spots Iniesta sneaking in from the left, but his pass hits the heel of Rodriguez and bounces away.
More reaction on Twitter, this one from siartono - "Not happy here at Indonesia they prefer to relay real madrid - granada game instead of barcelona-espanyol...what!!!"
Iniesta stands over a Barca free kick on the left side. He fires towards goal, but Alvarez gets across well to tip wide. Good effort, but one you'd probably expect the keeper to stop.
Yellow Card Víctor Sánchez Mata
That should have been something! Messi with a knee-weakening pass that cuts through about four Espanyol players and picks out Keita on the run towards goal. The Malian tries to round Alvarez, but the keeper is not buying, and smothers at his feet.
Busquetes tries to pick out Montoya on the right, who has covered unreal amounts of ground already. The pass is too far in front, and skips over the touchline to a loud cheer from the crowd. Not for the shoddy delivery, but because Guardiola takes a tender touch to give the ball to Espanyol for the throw.
Superb pass from Busquetes aimed towards Messi, who is running in towards the centre of goal. The flag stays down, but the little Argentine just cannot bring it under control and Alvarez comes out to make the catch.
Sweet stuff from Barca. Messi leads the charge down the centre, teeing up Montoya who bounds forward before trying to square back to Messi, who has continued his run into the box...but Moreno just manages to get some part of his foot onto the ball.
Quick Twitter plug - @keeghann, I want to hear from you, our readers! Get those comments in!
Yellow Card Busquets
He probably shouldn't have, as he smashes one harmlessly into the wall. It must be especially galling not to get that one over the wall. Was there even anyone over 5'9" in it?
Espanyol have another set piece, this time in a much more threatening position, some 22 yards from goal. Barca protest vehemently, and Busquetes sees yellow as the most animated of the dissenters. Weiss this time takes set piece responsibilities...
Espanyol are playing with a dangerously high line that is sure to have Messi and Pedro licking their chops. The Blaugrana are coming ever closer to finding a way through, with at least 30 yards between the last defender and Cristian Alvarez in goal.
OOOOH inches wide! Pinto looked to have it covered, but that was still a solid try, flashing about a foot off the top corner!
Now Espanyol have a set piece of their own from a similar position to which Messi struck goal two minutes earlier. Verdu is the chosen one...
Quick stat check for Messi - 47 league goals, 69 in all competitions and his 32nd strike in his last 20 games. Rock on Leo, rock on.
Goal Lionel Messi
GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOALLLLLL!!!! Straight from the set-piece, Messi puts Barca in front! The free kick took a nick off Baena en route to the back of the net, but only one man is claiming that!
Iniesta to Pedro, Pedro to Messi, Messi...blocked off by Sanchez. Free kick to come for Barca just over 25 yards out. No surprises who stands over it...
Messi with a delicate turn away from Rodriguez, and rolls to Iniesta advancing down the left. The pale-faced maestro squares up to Forlin, but the right back does his job and blocks him off, this time without fouling!
A sublime dummy from Iniesta suddenly opens up acres of space on the right for Montoya, who does his best Dani Alves impression in more ways than one - galloping down the flanks before skying a cross over the heads of everyone in the box.
Yellow Card Juan Daniel Forlín
Forlin was the guilty party in that incident, and is our first booking of the night. The free-kick, by the way, is headed out with little fuss.
Free kick to Barca after Iniesta looked to have broken free despite a tug on his shirt. The ref thought about the advantage, but decided against it. Not sure Iniesta agrees with that decision.
A few slips and slides to start the game, including one less than sure-footed gallop from Messi. Emotions are still running high, but things are sure to settle down in a bit.
Sohail Zia echoes the general consensus surrounding Barca's intentions in this match - "It will be a tough game, for sure, but Barcelona will surely do some thing for Pep Guardiola as it is his last game at Camp Nou"
And here we go in an emotional Camp Nou!
The sea of photographers around the Barca dugout has dissipated and we're about to get underway. Remember, keep those comments coming in on Twitter @keeghann.
Here comes the man himself, shaking the hand of everyone from the janitor to the linesman. Everyone, it seems, wants to pay homage to the man who has set new standards for the Catalans, and indeed, football itself.
The tributes are raining down all over Camp Nou. Guardiola's name echoes around the stadium and large banners adorn the stands with his face and achievements. Fantastic show from the Barca faithful.
This is also Pep Guardiola's final game at Camp Nou as coach. No doubt every Blaugrana, whether on the pitch or in the stands, will look to put on a show.
Subs: Casilla, Amat, Fonte, Uche, Pandiani, Coutinho, Gomez.
Espanyol (4-2-3-1): Alvarez; Lopez, Rodriguez, Moreno, Didac; Baena, Forlin; Sanchez, Verdu, Weiss; Alvaro.
Subs: Valdes, Alves, Fabregas, Affelay, Xavi, Barta, Tello.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Pinto; Montoya, Puyol, Mascherano, Adriano; Thiago, Busquets, Keita; Pedro, Messi, Iniesta.
Before we go any further, here are this evening's lineups...
With the pressure of La Liga off their shoulders, will Barca deal out another tonking? WIll Messi, currently on 68 for the season, break the 70-goal barrier? Will Espanyol pull a shocker? I'd love to hear your pre-match predictions and comments so don't hesitate to get in touch on Twitter @keeghann.
This clash admittedly does not have the weight of derbis past, since both teams are playing for little else than pride. Barca have had second place wrapped up for weeks, while Espanyol have been marked for a mid-table finish for a while now. Still, the fans will still be out out in full voice for the derby, and neighbor will turn against neighbor, for 90 minutes at least.
It's derby day folks, so stay tuned for Goal.com's live coverage of the all Catalan clash between Barcelona and Espanyol! I'm Keeghann Sinanan, keeping you company for the rest of the match!
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