Cervera experiences a baptism of fire as the Argentina international forward inspires his side to a comfortable win, and keeps pressure on La Liga leaders Real MadridGuardiola's men overcame both Racing Santander and the lengthy grass on the pitch at El Sardinero to secure a vital 2-0 win in the two side's La Liga clash this afternoon. A brace of Lionel Messi goals gave Barcelona the win, as Racing struggled to trouble their more illustrious opponents.
Pedro very nearly gave the away side the lead after just 6 minutes when he drifted past a couple of challenges on his way into the Racing area on the left before curling an ambitious effort inches wide with Mario Fernandez seemingly beaten.
Barcelona were awarded a free-kick for a foul on Messi on the edge of the Racing penalty area shortly afterwards, much to the dismay of the home fans. The Argentine's well-struck effort from the set piece was matched by an equally impressive save from Fernandez, as the score remained 0-0.
Andres Iniesta then came within a whisker of opening the scoring midway through the first half when he struck the crossbar with an outrageously ambitious chip from 12 yards out.
As the half wore on Barcelona began to find their rhythm and it took a fine Fernandez save to stop Cesc Fabregas from scoring. A flowing Barcelona move dissected the Racing backline and enabled the Spanish international enough space to get a shot away.
The away side took the lead on 29 minutes after Messi slotted home from close range after Fabregas had swept a cross to him at the back post.
Despite their disciplined approach to this match under new boss Alvaro Cervera Racing came under increasing pressure in the second half, with Barcelona creating a number of chances in the opening minutes after the break.
Barcelona eventually made their pressure count, Messi making it 2-0 on 55 minutes after his side were awarded a penalty when Fabregas was hauled to the ground inside the area by Domingo Cisma. Messi sent Fernandez the wrong way with the penalty to score his second of the game, and 50th goal in all competitions this season.
Just minutes after Messi's penalty Isaac Cuenca bamboozled his way through the Racing defence, striking his effort against the post as Barcelona went in search of more goals.
Racing thought they had reduced the deficit with their first effort on goal on 69 minutes when the substitute Adrian Gonzalez controlled the ball before firing into the net following a corner, only for the linesman to correctly rule his effort out for offside.
A late chance for Racing fell to Marcos Gullon, but the midfielder's shot was easily turned away by Victor Valdes, as Barcelona comfortably held out for the win.
The win takes Barcelona three points closer to Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid at the top of La Liga, but the Catalan side are still 10 adrift of their rivals with just 12 games left to play. Racing meanwhile, remain in the relegation zone following this home defeat, with six points separating them and bottom-placed Zaragoza.