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Deportivo La Coruña
January 24, 2015
• 12:00 PM
• Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero, Elche
Referee: Carlos Clos Gomez
• Attendance: 28235
L. Messi 55', 88'
Neymar 69', 71'
That's all from me, I've been Keeghann Sinanan and it's been a pleasure!
The end of a footballing exhibition from Barcelona. Despite a tough time in the first half where they only had Pique's goal on the board, Fajr's red card ended Elche's resistance in stunning fashion. Messi and Neymar both scored twice before Pedro's clincher at the death, and the sheer invention in some of their attacking sequences had me bubbling in my seat. They move a point off the top of the table, while Elche drop to 17th.
90' + 3'
90' + 3'
SUPER SIX FOR THE BLAUGRANA! Rafinha lifts a great pass over the top for Neymar, who controls it brilliantly before driving past his man and squaring a low ball to the back post, where Pedro does the rest!
The start of 2015, with all the boardroom upheaval and speculation surrounding Messi's future, not to mention the Sociedad loss, seemed to herald the end of an age for Barcelona. Instead, they've ripped off six straight wins by an overall score of 22-1 - and counting, because there's a few minutes left!
Goal Lionel Messi
IT'S MESSI! IT'S FIVE! Bartra produces probably the pass of the night, which is saying something. Messi races into the area, deceives the defender and slips a neat finish into the far side! Tyton didn't move!
Jonathas, who has not had a sniff for the entirety of the second half, feeds Suarez on the overlap, but Adriano can clear his lines and end the first positive moment we've seen from Elche in a long while.
This victory, barring a comeback to end all comebacks by Elche, will move Barcelona back to within a point of Real Madrid at the top of the table. However, los Blancos still have that game in hand.
Not a whole lot to catch the eye in recent minutes, with Barcelona enjoying some leisurely possession inside the Elche half. They're sapping what's left of the hosts' strength.
Yellow Card Lombán
Lomban is booked for a desperate challenge on Messi, who gets up to line up the resulting free kick near the top of the D. However, despite evading the wall, the Argentine's delivery is right down the throat of Tyton.
The sting has been taken out of this game in the last few minutes, with Elche adopting an 'anywhere will do' approach to defending. The current scoreline is a repeat of the outcome from when these two teams last met nine days ago.
Though Messi hasn't quite matched the goalscoring exploits of eternal co-barometer Ronaldo this season, his playmaking has been on a godly level. He's always had elite passing ability in his locker, but his role in Enrique's system has really brought that to the fore.
Poor Elche haven't had a prayer since Fajr's red card. This is exhibition stuff from the Catalans and I feel privileged to be watching it. Swarm after swarm of attacks on the desperate Franjiverdes ranks.
Assist Lionel Messi
TREMENDOUS! BARCA HAVE FOUR! Once again it's Messi scheming at the top of the box. He plays an impossibly high ball over the defence that drops perfectly for Neymar, who needs no second invitation to thump in an emphatic finish!
Mascherano has played some wonderful through passes in this game. Enrique's decision to deploy him in the centre of park has paid off handsomely. A complete midfield display.
Assist Lionel Messi
IT'S 3-0 TO BARCA! Messi emasculates his marker before sliding a perfect pass towards Neymar. Elche can't react in time, and the Brazilian waits for just the right moment to slot into the far side!
Mascherano picks out Montoya with a great pass, and the right-back leaves his man for dead towards the byline. However, his low cross back into the mixer can't pick out a teammate!
Another booking, as Alba stretches too late to beat Victor to a clearance, and catches the Elche man near his calf. Barca starting to show their cantankerous side in recent plays.
Yellow Card Jordi Alba
Referee Carlos Clos Gomez and his team of assistants have been on point this evening. Despite Elche's rough-and-tumble approach giving them a lot to decipher, they've made the correct decision with all of their bookings, as well as the penalty which led to Barca's second.
Damian Suarez has not done a whole lot wrong on the right side of Elche's defence, but Mascherano decides to punish him anyway. An untidy challenge from the Argentine on the right-back leads to a booking, the first for Barca in this game.
Yellow Card Javier Mascherano
Xavi plays an otherworldly ball right down the middle that somehow lands on the foot of Pedro, who made a diagonal run down the blindside of a defender into the box. However, Tyton is out quickly to meet him and clear the danger!
This could get Copa del Rey levels of ugly for los Franjiverdes now. Escriba is readying some change on the sidelines. Two goals and a man down against Barcelona - one of the worst positions to be in.
Yellow/Red Fayçal Fajr
RED CARD! ELCHE DOWN A MAN! Senseless from the midfielder, who went in late on Rafinha, clipping his ankles and getting nowhere near the ball. Elche have it all to do now.
A breakdown in communication between Bravo and Bartra allows Fajr a momentary glimpse inside the box, but he's forced to the corner flag before teammates can arrive in support.
Penalty Goal Lionel Messi
MESSI BURIES IT! Tyton is nearly three yards off his line but is left terribly wrong-footed as the Argentine side-foots it into the left side.
BARCELONA PENALTY! Rafinha releases Neymar on the run, and he cuts inside Pelegrin, who simply cannot get his burly frame out of the way in time. The Brazilian goes tumbling and up steps Messi to make it two...
Five men on yellow cards for los Franjiverdes, and they aren't letting up with some of these challenges. At least the referee has been quick to discipline offenders, and he may have to go a step further if Elche keep up this level of tenacity.
A long ball over the top from Messi draws Tyton out of his goal to meet Pedro at the edge of the box. Moments later, Victor needs to limp off to the sidelines after an aerial challenge with his old team-mate Montoya. He looks like he'll be patched up quickly though.
No changes from either side at the interval. Pique is caught in possession twice in quick succession near the edge of his own box, but Elche aren't able to execute fast enough to exploit the mistake.
Here we go again.
That will do it for the first half. Barcelona hold a narrow lead thanks to a lovely move from Pique. It hasn't been the Barca of recent results however, as Elche have made them work hard, with the hosts even testing Bravo a few times. All to play for in the second half. Stay tuned.
NARROWLY OFFSIDE! Mascherano to Xavi, who in turn feeds Messi at the top of the box. He plays a ball inside the the full back for Pedro, who strikes against the post just as the flag comes up!
This is getting ugly from Elche. Near the touchline, in a completely harmless area, Fajr shows no restraint and goes in high on Rafinha in an attempt to win an aerial ball. Another yellow for dangerous play.
Yellow Card Fayçal Fajr
Jonathas joins the party in the referee's back pocket, as he flies in with an ugly attempt at a tackle. Certainly a deserved booking, and there's been a few nasty ones from the home side in this game.
Yellow Card Jonathas
Pasalic cracks an effort right at Bravo. Meanwhile, Escriba is still complaining to the officials, given that there was no definite signal for Barcelona to take the free kick that led to the goal.
An unlikely source, but we've seen Pique display this type of technical accomplishment in the final third before. A much-needed opener for the Catalan giants, but how will Elche respond?
BARCELONA HAVE THE LEAD! The Catalans deceive from a free kick, delaying the release just long enough for Pique to find a run on the back post. Xavi launches it for the defender, who controls it magnificently and shoots on the turn. A deflection off Cisma was enough to take it past Tyton!
Yellow Card Pelegrín
Poor Pedro has been in the heat of the battle in this game. Pelegrin rakes his boot down the back of his ankle and the 35-year-old is deservedly booked for that dirty challenge.
THAT WAS A CLOSE CALL! Messi, cutting in from the right flank, hoists in a phenomenal ball towards the far post for Neymar. The Brazilian just misses his connection and the pass flashes menacingly past the post!
It's not been a good game for the Barcelona front three. Neymar doesn't look focused and Pedro, as he tends to do from time to time, has shirked attacking responsibility. Messi has also not found any time on the ball. Suarez, all bundled up on the bench, may be required.
A whirlwind period in the last few minutes for the home side, as Barcelona have really struggled to establish the intricacy that defines their regular approach. Los Franjiverdes have learned their lessons from the Copa del Rey humiliation.
Aaron nibbles at the ankles of Pedro about five feet from the referee, and gets the second yellow card of the game.
Yellow Card Aarón
FAJR ON FIRE! The Frenchman lines up a free kick from at least 25 yards, and with a sizzling effort, forces Bravo to push out for a corner! He takes the resulting delivery to boot, but the Barca goalkeeper hacks it out.
SAVE FROM BRAVO! The home side launch an inspired counter attack, and Fajr collects a pass down the right-hand side, but his shot from just inside the area is too close to the Blaugrana keeper!
BETTER FROM ELCHE! Jonathas uses his power to bust past Pique on a break but without options in the box, he goes for goal from a slight angle. It's a good effort that flashes just wide of the post! However, an offside flag renders it moot in the end.
MY WORD, NEARLY THE OPENER! Messi takes aim from the resulting set piece and dips his effort INCHES wide of Tyton's post! Some of the crowd thought that it was in for a second!
Yellow Card Domingo Cisma
Cisma, the Elche left-back, gets pulled up for a late challenge on Messi. He'll receive the first booking of the game and what's more, Barcelona now have a dangerous free kick to come.
The home fans are appreciating the hustle of their players in disrupting Barcelona's passing game. That last Alba opportunity remains the only time that Tyton has really had and cause for concern.
CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR! Barcelona win a free kick on the right, and Xavi soars the ball to Alba, unmarked, in the top-left corner of the Elche box. I's a rehearsed routine, and the left-back cracks an enticing volley that dips about just over the bar! Would have been one for the end-of-year reel had it been a foot lower!
Elche's midfielders are forming a determined bank of five in front of the back four, with Rodriguez and Aaron also pulling in deep from the flanks. Only Jonathas remains near the halfway line, looking to catch the defence napping on the break.
Messi has been playing very deep to start this game, and the idea appears to be for him to feed Pedro and Neymar early, before arriving late in the box to do his real damage. However, Elche are doing a good job of pressuring him into rushed decisions on the ball.
It's been mostly Barcelona possession as expected since the first whistle, with a few long balls over the top forcing Tyton off his line to confront players at the very edge of his box.
Mascherano has been deployed in midfield this season, and is already looking to press the Elche central players on the ball aggressively. With Rafinha and the suddenly dispensable Xavi making up the rest of the central trio, the Barca adjustment in that position will be crucial.
In case you missed it, Real Madrid closed out a narrow 2-1 win over Cordoba just moments ago, with Gareth Bale scoring an 89th-minute penalty to seal the points. Even more pressure for the Catalans to get a result now. Wonder if the men on the pitch have heard?
Elche could really make up some ground in the table, since only five points separate 12th from 20th in the standings. However, especially given recent results against Barca, there's not many outside the Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero holding out much hope for them.
Luis Suarez has been benched in favour of Pedro for this game as Enrique makes six changes from the side that won 1-0 against Atletico Madrid in the Copa. Martin Montoya, Marc Bartra and Rafinha are among those getting a run out from the start in this game.
Escriba has kept his faith in the same XI that dispatched Levante 1-0 last time out. Brazilian Jonathas leads the line for the home side while Chelsea loanee Mario Pasalic lines up in the middle of the park.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Bravo; Montoya, Pique, Bartra, Alba; Xavi, Mascherano, Rafinha; Pedro, Messi, Neymar.
Elche (4-2-3-1): Tyton; Suarez, Roco, Sergio Pelegrin, Cisma; Pasalic, Adrian; Aaron Niguez, Fajr, Victor Rodriguez; Jonathas.
Barcelona are a point behind Real Madrid having played a game more. Los Blancos are currently in action against Cordoba, so Luis Enrique will doubtless want his team to get all three points and keep things at the top of the league neck and neck.
Despite that doom and gloom, los Franjiverdes have made a positive start to 2015. After a four-game losing streak prior to the Liga winter break, they've taken seven points from nine on offer to move a point outside the relegation zone, in 16th place.
Fran Escriba's side have not had any luck against Barcelona. In addition to the Copa humiliation, they also suffered a 3-0 opening-day Liga defeat in August, and have not beaten the Catalans in the league since 1974 (one draw, 10 losses since then).
One of the victims of Barcelona's winning streak were Elche, who were dumped out of the Copa del Rey at the Round of 16 stage courtesy of a 9-0 aggregate hammering. Their last meeting came nine days ago in the second leg at this very stadium, with the Blaugrana emerging 4-0 victors.
Barcelona's defeat against Real Sociedad three weeks ago that heralded doom and gloom in 2015 is starting to fade in the rear-view mirror. Since then, the Catalans have ripped off five straight wins in all competitions, outscoring their opponents 17-1.
Hello and welcome to our live coverage of Barcelona's Liga visit to Elche. The visitors have really clicked into form on the pitch and will want to continue their winning ways against a side that are trying to stay alive in the top flight. I'm Keeghann Sinanan, your guide for all the action.
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