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Jan 23, 2012

Lionel Messi scored his first away hat-trick of the season to give Barca a comfortable 4-1 victory over Malaga. The match wasn't as comfortable as the score-line suggest. In the first half Malaga had some serious chances and ended as 1-0. Rondon scored the consolation goal for Malaga. All the goal in tonight's match were scored by South American players. But Barca came out roaring after the half and finished off the game. Guardiola rested some serious stalwarts ahead of the Clasico clash on Wednesday. Puyol started from the bench with Abidal, Pique, Mascherano and Alves forming the defense. The midfield saw Thiago, Iniesta and Busquets. The frontr trio also had a different look with Messi and Sanchez partnering Adriano. Victor Valdes captained the side with both Puyol and Xavi absent from the starting eleven.

Malaga started being compact in the midfield and closed down the space available for Barca midfield players. But soon they realised it's not a simple task to do. In the 8th minute Thiago floated ina cross from the right to be met by Sanchez in the middle, but he could direct his header only to the keeper's hand. In the 15th minute the 19 year old Malaga player, Isco curled the ball into the far corner but Valdes went full stretch to deny that. From the resulting corner Valdes made another two brilliant saves (both off the goal line) to keep the score nil-nil. We were struggling to penetrate the Malaga back four and most of our shots came from outside the box. In the 32nd minute Van Nistelrooy missed a good chance from the corss. The very next minute Barca went 1-0 ahead with Messi heading the ball past the keeper from a floted cross from Adriano. That was Messi's second goal away from home. Apart from that we didn't see anymore chances at both end till half time. A 1-0 scoreline was too tricky going into the break, especially with Malaga forcing three brilliant save from Valdes.

To defend 1-0 was tricky but the players came out in full flow from start. In the 48th minute Iniesta crossed to Thiago in the middle whose shot was parried away, Iniesta got hold of the rebound and found Thiago again in the box whose shot once again was blocked by keeper, but the rebound fell kindly to Sanchez and he made no mistake putting Barca 2-0 ahead. In the 51st minute Messi went in a trademark Messi run skipping past defenders and finisheing easily past the keeper putting Barca 3-0 ahead. In the 64th minute Guardiola took off Sanchez and brought in youngster Cuenca. In the 67th minute Adriano injured his calf and had to be replaced by Jonathan Dos Santos. In the 73rd minute Messi won a free kick just outside the box. Messi hit the bar from the keeper, was really unlucky there as it hit the bar and then bounced off the line. In the 81st minute Messi completed his hat-trick with a brilliant run from the half line, hold off every defender and glided the ball past the keeper. In the 85th minute Malaga denied Valdes a clean sheet when he was beaten eventhough he managed to keep the first shot away.

It was great to see Messi back scoring goals away from Camp Nou in the league. And he scored three of finest goals tonight. That should be a warning to opponents for the second half of the season. There is no doubt that Messi will take all the headlines tomorrow but valdes for me was as good as him. With this victory we had cut the lead at the top to two points for the time being. Real Madrid has a chance to bring that back to five, but we had done our job of increasing the pressure on them.

All About FC Barcelona


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