Five-star Barca overcome early setback
Barcelona got back to winning ways against Panathinaikos in the Champions League after their shock loss to newly promoted Hercules in La Liga on the weekend.
With Messi in scintillating form, the Catalan outfit overcame an early goal to run out comfortable 5-1 winners, and it could have been much more.
The shock 2-0 loss to Hercules on Saturday was a wake up call for Barcelona, as they returned to their best with a clinical display of possession and pinpoint passing.
The stats were harrowing with Guardiola’s men controlling 86% of possession and conceding only one shot from the Greek outfit, yet at times they seemed to be looking for one pass too many.
The away team’s one shot of the game turned into the opening goal, with a long kick from Tzorvas finding Dibril Cisse, who flicked the ball on for French international Sidney Govou to run onto and finish emphatically past Valdes.
Teams have frustrated Barcelona before in the Champions League, notably Rubin Kazan in last season’s competition, yet a combination from Xavi and Messi ensured there would be no doubt of the final result within two minutes of their setback.
A beautiful ball over the top of the Panathinaikos defence from Xavi found Messi, who slotted the ball past Tzorvas with a lovely side footed finish.
From then on it was just a matter of how many for both the Argentinean striker and his teammates.
Ten minutes later it was 2-1, with Villa taking advantage from some poor defending from a corner, to strike home Busquets flick on at the far post.
It was the Spanish maestro’s first Champions League goal for his new club, and will be the first of many as Barcelona look to regain the title of European Champions.
Chances came and went in the remaining minutes of the first half, Messi hitting the underside of the crossbar before putting Barcelona through to a 3-1 lead with a magical goal.
The little wizard danced through the Panathinaikos defence, playing one-twos with both Xavi and Pedro, before smashing the ball into the corner of the net.
It epitomised the fast paced game Barcelona and Messi thrive on, with the Greek defence frozen in admiration.
After the break it was more of the same, yet to be fair Panathinaikos started brightly, with some organised defending and a bit of probing from former Liverpool player Sebastian Leto.
The Argentine was making headways down the left side, and showed nice touches, however all too often he was left with no options to continue his attacks.
Messi should have taken the match ball home, after getting the chance to do so from the penalty spot in the 55th minute.
The current Ballon D’Or winner proved that even he can make mistakes, as an extremely tame penalty was comfortably saved by Tzorvas.
The penalty itself was debatable, with Messi falling under a challenge from …, though there appeared to be minimal contact.
Barcelona continued to dominate proceedings yet couldn’t find another goal, wasting a few opportunities before a very un-Barcelona finish took the score line to 4-1.
Messi was put through by a wonderful Bojan ball, and almost finished from the tightest of angles, the ball hitting both posts, before bobbling out to Pedro to tap in from close range.
Messi had another chance to take his hat trick but was thwarted by Tzorvas, but he did provide the fifth Barcelona goal for Dani Alves.
The Brazilian wing-back had turned in a rather poor performance, despite his energy and clever forward runs, his final product was often found lacking.
However he made no mistake in injury time to skilfully head in Messi’s unbelievable chip to end the tie 5-1.