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It was no surprise that Saturday’s match at the Nuevo Arcángel in Córdoba, Spain, played on a lush oasis of green turf in one of the driest regions of the Iberian Peninsula, actually did take place under conditions likely to be found in the middle of a desert. Although the Andalusian climate is notoriously arid and hot — especially in the summer — the league encounter between hosts Córdoba FC and their northern visitors FC Barcelona featured unseasonably high temperatures — 31ºC / 88ºF at kick-off — scorching sunshine, and bone-dry humidity levels. Players had trouble pivoting as their shoes stuck to the grass, the ball seemed to settle as if it were covered with velcro, and the general pace of play was akin to a dripping bottle of molasses. At one point in the first half players from both sides took advantage of an injury stoppage to make a mass exodus to the sideline where they clutched water bottles, drenched their heads, and gulped down what remained.
At the end of it all, FC Barcelona didn’t just survive the unyielding conditions, they thrived in them — overcoming the energy-sapping heat and a desperate Córdoba determined to avert relegation — by scoring twice in the final moments of the first half and netting a half dozen more in the second for an overwhelming 8–0 victory.
Although the match mimicked half-court basketball for large stretches at a time, Barça initially struggled to adapt to the parched sod before midfielder Ivan Rakitic broke the rapidly melting ice after 42 minutes. Lionel Messi lobbed a floater over the home defence and into the area, where Raktitic calmly settled before crushing a volley past Córdoba goalkeeper Juan Carlos from five metres for a 1–0 lead. Barça Striker Luis Suárez made it 2–0 in the second and final minute of injury time after he streaked into the Córdoba area and one-timed a beautifully arcing cross from midfielder Andrés Iniesta.
Two minutes after the intermission Messi put up Barça’s third of the day when he headed in a precision cross from the right wing courtesy of defender Dani Alves, meeting the ball in full stride, one step to the right of the penalty spot.
Cue the floodgates
Alves produced a near carbon copy of his previous assist six minutes later. But this time it was Suárez — stationed closer to the near post — who, with the flick of his head, redirected in, the ball catching the inside of the far post. In the 65th minute, defender Gerard Piqué headed home a Rakitic corner kick for Barça’s fifth of the day — and third straight by header. It was also Piqué’s fifth goal of the season.
The sixth Catalan goal came in the 80th minute when Barça’s four strikers — Messi, Neymar, Suárez, and Pedro — were all involved in a rapid sequence inside the Córdoba area. The play began with Pedro and Messi pulling off a give-and-go. As the play broke down both Suárez and Neymar had touches before Messi was able to tap in for his second of the day.
Neymar, who had several missed opportunities throughout the match, finally got his chance when, on 84 minutes, he was taken down in the area and the referee pointed to the spot. Messi, in an act of pure selflessness, ceded the spot kick to Neymar and the Brazilian converted with ease to make it 7–0. But the scoring had yet to be wrapped up as Suárez got his third goal of the day — Barça’s eighth — in the eighty-eighth minute.
And then there were three
The victory keeps FC Barcelona two points clear at the top of the league table — with just three games remaining — after Real Madrid kept pace with a 3–2 win at Sevilla on Saturday night. Córdoba, with the loss, are now mathematically assured of relegation. The Andalusians are buried in last place in La Liga, 11 points behind 17th place Almería with just three games to play.
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