Football Features

“A feat of genuine galactic genius” – Barcelona turn on the style to mangle Mallorca

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:24, 7 December 2019

In a thrilling night of football, Barcelona thrashed Mallorca 5-2 at the Camp Nou.

The win was the Blaugrana’s third 5-2 win of the season and it took Barcelona back to the top of La Liga. Despite not being top, they would have been confident as they came into the night off the back of four straight wins.

Since their abysmal 0-0 draw against Slavia Prague in the Champions League, the Catalan side have found some rhythm and it seems like they are building momentum as they head towards El Clásico. After their last two victories over Borussia Dortmund and Atlético Madrid, big wins in big games, the Blaugrana were ready for an easier ride against Mallorca. The Islanders were down in 17th and had lost every single away game so far this season.

That run obviously continued at the Camp Nou, but as the Blaugrana stampeded over their visitors they did so in the utmost style. Having begun the season in spotty form with Leo Messi out injured, it makes perfect sense that as the best player in the world found his fitness the Blaugrana found their form.

And against Mallorca, well, Messi was at his magnificent best. He scored Barcelona’s second and third goals on the night with almost identical efforts, bending the ball into the side of the net from the top of the box. Magnificent strikes. He added his hat-trick at the death, linking with Luis Suárez and thundering the ball into the roof of the net.

But what will encourage Barcelona fans the most wasn’t Messi’s supremacy, that has become so consistent as to be expected. No, what will really have them feeling confident ahead of two massive games, first away to bogey side Real Sociedad and then El Clásico, is how well the side functioned in attack.

It wasn’t all giving it to Messi and praying, even though he began the night showing off his new Ballon d’Or. In fact the two goals he didn’t score actually didn’t involve him all that much, which is very odd for Ernesto Valverde’s Barcelona. Odd, but very encouraging.

The first goal came from almost nothing. The ball was with Marc-André Ter Stegen and there appeared to be no danger. Everyone would have been expecting the slow passing from the back, but what happened was Ter Stegen saw Antoine Griezmann making a run and launched an absolutely impossible pass. A scorching ICBM of a pass that soared through the air as though it was guided by microchip, landing perfectly into the path of Griezmann who took it forward and calmly lifted it over Manolo Reina in the Mallorca goal.

That was Ter Stegen’s second assist of the season. His second. He will be annoyed at the lack of a clean sheet, but his overall display was good and, again, he got his second assist. Ter Stegen’s ability to play out from the back is an invaluable weapon in beating opposing high presses, but if he can start regularly bypassing their entire team? That’s terrifying.

From route one to something a bit more Barça-style for their fourth goal. Frenkie de Jong picked the ball up just inside the left half-space and drove across to the right side of the pitch, exchanging passes first with Sergio Busquets and then Sergi Roberto before slipping a gorgeous outside-of-the-foot pass through to Luis Suárez.

Now here, Suárez could have done any number of things but he, with his back to goal, decided to do a backheel. Not just a normal backheel, a chipped backheel. Even attempting something like that requires such a massive amount of self-confidence it’s honestly bordering on stupidity. Who the hell chips a backheel?? And more, to actually pull it off? The Uruguayan lifted the ball up and over Manolo Reina and into the back of the net. It was an absurd goal, a feat of genuine galactic genius.

When that kind of thing is working for you, then almost anything is going to work. It’s no surprise that Suárez spent the rest of the game shooting from any angle and position. If you’d just scored a backheel chip why wouldn’t you believe you could score with any shot?

So that’s a Messi hat-trick (taking him top of the Pichichi standings), Ter Stegen’s second assist of the season, Suárez’s backheel chip, Frenkie de Jong, Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets looking harmonious in midfield, Antoine Griezmann playing well, Junior Firpo making it through a whole game and most amazingly, Carles Aleña coming off the bench to play his first minutes since the opening weekend of the season!

With massive matches on the horizon, clashes that will define the future of La Liga, everything seems to be coming together for Barça, and that should be very worrying for all their title rivals.

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The rest of today’s La Liga action

  • Real Madrid 2-0 Espanyol: Los Blancos were far from their best at the Santiago Bernabeu today but still had far too much quality for an out-of-form Espanyol to handle. Fede Valverde and Karim Benzema (one goal, one assist) were again the standouts in a routine victory for Zinedine Zidane’s men, although a red card for Ferland Mendy could cause concern with away trips to the Mestalla and Camp Nou on the horizon.
  • Granada 3-0 Alavés: Granada were winless in five but they bucked that poor form and picked up a huge win at home to move into the top half of the table. Roberto Soldado scored his first goal from August from the penalty spot.
  • Levante 2-4 Valencia: Valencia went two down in their derby against Levante after two goals from Roger Marti and they even lost Jasper Cillessen to injury, but then an own goal just before half-time gave them hope. An incredible rally in the second-half saw Kevin Gameiro bag a brace as Los Che picked up a huge win to move three points ahead of their rivals.