Racing Santander 1-4 Barcelona: Blaugrana Ease Past Verdiblancos

Los Racinguistas were swept aside by the champions at El Sardinero...

Barcelona followed up last weekend's win by strolling to victory against Racing Santander. Two goals from Lionel Messi were accompanied by strikes from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gerard Pique, while Oscar Serrano's excellent goal was nothing more than a consolation.

The hosts were unchanged from last weekend's match with Malaga - Henrique lined up in the centre of defence against his parent team. Meanwhile Pep Guardiola retained roughly the same side that beat Atletico Madrid, with only Dmytro Chygrynskiy making way for Carles Puyol.

The Blaugrana enjoyed a couple of half-chances in the early stages, with Thierry Henry going close from the edge of the box. While the slick pitch favoured Barcelona, the crowd did not and the visitors were greeted with frequent whistles when in possession.

Ibrahimovic was causing problems for the Racing back-line, but they were holding firm and preventing 'Ibra' or Messi from having a clear opening. At the other end, Pedro Munitis was desperately trying to feed off scraps.

After quarter of an hour, los Racinguistas had a little spell of their own with a number of set piece opportunities, but were unable to create a clear-cut opening.

It was a set-piece that saw Barca take the lead in the 20th minute. Dani Alves looked to line up another booming free kick, but Xavi played a quick ball to the wing. From the right flank, Messi crossed for Zlatan Ibrahimovic to head home from close range.

Seconds after the restart, the Swede slipped in behind the home defence but sent his placed shot against the post. The Blaugrana were rampant, and it was about to get worse. In the 24th minute. Lionel Messi exchanged passed with Xavi, danced through the Racing defence before sliding his left foot shot into the corner.

Only a few minutes later, it was 3-0. Racing failed to clear their lines from a corner and despite being surrounded by several defenders, Ibrahimovic flicked an exquisite ball to Gerard Pique to tap home from close range.

Los Verdiblancos' defenders were all at sea after conceding three goals in just over six minutes, and could not get hold of the ball while Xavi orchestrated Barcelona's midfield.

As the half drew towards its conclusion, Barca were content to hold onto possession in midfield and take their foot off the pedal, allowing Racing to have an occasional foray into the visitors' half.

Los Racinguistas endured another scare seconds before the whistle went for half time, as Messi headed the ball past Tono from Dani Alves' cross, but he was correctly flagged offside.

Magical Messi - The Argentine scored a brace for his side

No substitutions were made at half time, but there was an injury concern for Pep Guardiola seconds after the restart. Ibrahimovic went over on his ankle after trying to chase the ball down, and the Blaugrana coach erred on the side of caution and substituted the Swede for Pedro.

Racing were beginning to find a foothold in the game, and Manuel Arana fired a dipping shot from range but it was straight at Victor Valdes.

However, Lionel Messi added a fourth for Barca shortly after the hour. The Argentine picked the ball up on the right wing, skipped past three Racing defenders before unleashing an unstoppable left foot shot into the top corner.

It was his last action of the night, as he was replaced by Andres Iniesta to a standing ovation from all sides of the ground. Racing coach Juan Carlos Mandia was helpless on the touchline, and threw on Luis Garcia for Munitis with 20 minutes remaining.

Valdes had been a spectator for much of the evening, but had to pick the ball out of his net in the 72nd minute. Oscar Serrano did well to skip through the challenge of Rafael Marquez, and did even better to fire a shot beyond the Blaugrana stopper from outside the area.

The goal gave the home fans something to cheer, while Racing pressed forward for another goal with their spirits buoyed. Serrano in particular was tussling with Alves on the wing, but los Verdiblancos were far more active in the final third than they had been in the first 45 minutes.

No more goals were forthcoming, however, and the referee blew for full time after one minute of injury time.

Anthony Wright,