The emotion surrounding Guardiola’s last game in charge at the Camp Nou made up for any feelings that this was a dead rubber, with neither team having anything to really play for but pride, and the packed stadium (89.044) saw Leo Messi score all four goals in an atmosphere of appreciation and respect for the departing manager.
Messi starts the celebrations
Espanyol’s well organised and disciplined approach restricted Barça’s typical possession game at the start of the match and neither team imposed themselves in the first 25 minutes. Once again, it was the genius of Leo Messi which made the difference, with the world number one opening the scoring with an exquisitely hit free kick from just outside the box . There may indeed not have been much at stake in terms of points, but this was a derby and pride was up for grabs, something that was clear to see in the intense rhythm of the early exchanges.
With Espanyol dedicating their efforts to stopping rather than creating, the weight of making chances fell on Barça, specifically their leader in attack, Leo Messi. Cristian Álvarez made a double save from Keita and Iniesta o 29 minutes to keep the visitors in the game, though Barça weren’t quite showing the attacking finesse which has become their trademark under Guardiola.
Messi makes it two
With no real threat at the back, Guardiola switched his attacking options just after the break switching to a 3-4-3 with Adriano and Pedro out on the wings, which gave the team more space and soon began to create more danger. On 64 minutes, Messi put away a penalty after a rather harsh handball in the box, just after Espanyol had had their own claim turned down in the Barça area.
Thanks you Leo and Pep!
At 2-0, Espanyol were forced to push forward and they began to have a bit more bite upfront, with Mascherano denying them a goal with a goal line clearance. Then Leo Messi put an end to any hopes the visitors might have had with two more goals, one a penalty and another a well taken individual effort, after which he ran over to embrace his boss. The Camp Nou was boiling with emotion now and that just increased with the appearance of Xavi off the bench.
The final minutes of the Guardiola era at the Camp Nou were full of emotion as the ground paid homage to a manager who hads brought so much success and who will close his fantastic time in charge of the team next week at the Benito Villamarin and then at the Vicente Calderon in the Cup Final.