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After three months without competitive football, Quique Setién said before this game that it was difficult to know what to expect. Not only have the players been out of action for a quarter of a year, but games are now being played under very different circumstances, with safety very much in mind, empty stadiums and even changes to some of the rules.
Any normal team would need time to readapt. But Barça are no normal team. Every credit has to go the players for tonight’s display, the biggest away win of the season so far, and if anything playing even better football than they did before the enforced break.
Quick off the mark
The ball had barely started rolling and it was already in the back of the Mallorca net. Jordi Alba provided the cross and Arturo Vidal’s head was on the end of it. Just one minute and five seconds gone and Barça were already on top!
Such a confident start from Barça... It took the home side 25 minutes to find anything to bother Marc-Andre ter Stegen, and when they did the German produced a fantastic save to deny Takefusa Kubo.
The stadium was empty, but every time Mallorca pressed forward they were accompanied by pre-recorded crowd noises over the PA system. We got to hear more and more of those as the half progressed. Barça were no longer in such total control.
Braithwaite opens his account
A second goal was urgently needed, and it came from the feet of Martin Braithwaite as floating ball that Leo Messi could only partially connect with landed at his feet and a fine finish meant the Dane was able to celebrate his first goal in a blaugrana jersey.
There was a moment of doubt that Antoine Griezmann might have handled the ball in the build-up, but VAR gave the all-clear and it was 2-0 at the break.
Shortly into the second half, Luis Suárez replaced Griezmann. The Uruguayan was originally expected to miss the rest of the season through injury, but the circumstances have changed significantly since then…
Barça kept powering forward. Braithwaite very nearly scored a second, Ronald Araújo saw a chance skim off the post and Messi and Suárez were producing combination plays with such smoothness that it felt incredible to believe that neither had played competitive football for almost 100 days!
Alba and Messi finish the job
A third goal had to come, and it did. Messi laid up the assist and Jordi Alba slotted a composed finish past Manolo Reina – Barça three goals to the good and that was as good as game over.
Yet there was still time for one more. Deep into injury time, Suárez picked out Messi and the Argentinian danced on the edge of the area before picking his spot as he is wont to do – Barça’s fourth of the night and his twentieth goal of the campaign.
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