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Barça have gone five points clear at the top of Liga table thanks to Atlético Madrid and Sevilla drawing and, more to the point, a hard-worked 2-1 victory against an opponent that proved to be every bit as tough as Ernesto Valverde had hinted in the build-up.
Although two first half goals from Leo Messi and Luis Suárez may have suggested the blaugrana were going to walk this, with flowing and confident football all over the park, Getafe pulled one back before the break and were still threatening to sneak an equaliser as the game drew to an edge-of-your-seat finale.
The win confirms that Barça will be the ‘winter champions’ of the 2018/19 season, and with a +7 difference on Sevilla and +10 on Real Madrid, the new year has got off to as promising a start as we could have wished for.
Messi, who else?
In the build-up to the game, a lot was said about Getafe’s rock-solid defensive record, but Barça had beaten it twice before the first 45 minutes were out.
A lot was also asked about who would score Barça’s first goal of 2019, and the majority that predicted Messi were proved right. That’s four years in a row that he’s claimed the honour.
The origin was an Arthur pass on 21 minutes, which the Argentinian followed like radar, slicing his way between two defenders and coolly tucking the ball home from an angle.
Barça were starting 2019 with the same kind of dream football that saw out 2018 – and six minutes before the break Luis Suárez was extending the lead. It was some strike from the Uruguayan, as he latched onto the end of Djené’s clearance of a Messi free-kick, slamming home a volley that was as spectacular as it was classy.
It had been a perfect half from the champions, but there was an unexpected twist just before the players headed for half-time refreshments.
Jaime Mata finished off a well-worked move to get Getafe back within one, the goal coming as some consolation to a player who some might consider unfortunate to have had an earlier effort disallowed.
There was plenty more life from Getafe after the break. Ángel Rodríguez fired close, Leandro Cabrera brought out an absolute corker of a save and then after doing all the hard work Mata’s truly rotten finish will go down as one of the misses of the season.
Barça were still very much involved too, and Messi in particular gave Getafe keeper David Soria plenty to think about. But the pink-clad visitors were no longer in total command.
The next goal could have come from anywhere, but somewhat surprisingly based on the relentless pace of the action, there would be no further score from either side – and Barça are coming home with the kind of three points that decide championships.
Let’s hope that proves to be the case. So far, so good.
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