Football, La Liga, News 2018-01-29 5:28 AM

Messi strikes again to save the day for the Blaugrana


Lionel Messi’s stunning free-kick completed a late Barcelona comeback as they beat Alaves 2-1 at Camp Nou on Sunday night.

The Vitoria-based side were looking for a second straight win at the home of the champions-elect, having come out on top by the same score last season. John Guidetti’s first-half strike set them on their way, but Luis Suarez struck before Messi stepped forward and saved the day again.

Barcelona are now 28 games unbeaten and 11 points clear at the top of the table. Here are five talking points from a dramatic night. 


#1 A familiar story for Magic Messi


For long periods, it looked as though history would repeat itself for Alaves. They were leading, defending well and putting in the kind of brave performance that has seen their season resurrected by coach Abelardo. However, keeping Messi quiet is impossible, and it was his 20th LaLiga goal of the season that proved the difference in the end.

He’d gone close with a freekick in the first half, but Alaves goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco tipped it onto the post brilliantly. However, he stepped up when it counted, with another special set piece just six minutes from time. An effort of supreme accuracy proved too powerful for his first half nemesis Pacheco at a crucial time.

Andres Iniesta, too, put in a rather familiar performance in the end. The 33-year-old completed 90 minutes for just the second time all season, but at no point did he look jaded, dancing through the Alaves midfield into the dying embers of the game. It was his run and cross that set Suarez up for the equaliser.


#2 There wasn’t enough penetration in attack from the hosts


On Philippe Coutinho’s league debut, there was a real buzz around the place with a first opportunity to see the Brazilian link up with his former Liverpool teammate Suarez, Iniesta and, of course, Messi in prospect. Starting on the right-hand side, with the freedom to cut inside, he looked lively with a few nice touches, but fatigue from the injury that had delayed his first start soon began to catch up with him. That resulted in a lack of energy as his game progressed.

Paulinho has been a surprise package for Barcelona this season. Mocked by neutrals after his move from Guangzhou Evergrande in China, the former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder has really found his place in the Catalans’ set up. He has eight goals in 19 games this term, thanks in the main to his late runs into the box to support the likes of Messi and Suarez; with the superstars taking up most of the attention, he is often free to pick up the pieces.


#3 Barcelona were far too open at the back


The Blaugrana don’t fear anyone, especially at Camp Nou, so they were unlikely to be too wary of a team struggling at the bottom of LaLiga going forward. Alaves are the last team to beat the Blaugrana at home in the league, though, and perhaps deserved a little more respect.

From the start, Ernesto Valverde’s men set their stall out, enjoying 74% possession in the first half; Messi, Suarez, Iniesta and Coutinho huffed and puffed, but they couldn’t blow the house down.


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