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Elche fans are no doubt grateful that their team won’t have to play Barça again this season, or indeed this month, as Luis Enrique’s side ran riot at the Manuel Martínez Valero Stadium to chalk up six goals - that’s 15 in the three January games against Fran Escribá’s team. Gerard Piqué opened the scoring in the first half, with Messi and Neymar getting a brace each after the break before Pedro made it a round half dozen in injury time.
With Luis Suárez, Busquets, Iniesta and Dani Alves all on the bench with one eye on Wednesday’s Cup game against Atlético Madrid, Luis Enrique began the game with Alba, Bartra, Piqué and Montoya at the back, Mascherano moving into the holding midfielder’s role and Pedro partnering Messi and Neymar up front. If the fans were expecting the goals to pour in early on after the team’s 9 goals in the Cup against Elche earlier this month, they would have been disappointed as it was a cagey start to the game, with Elche looking quite lively and pulling a couple of good low stops from Bravo in the opening exchanges.
Piqué opens the scoring
However, as Barça began to control the game and hold onto the ball, Elche were forced into a series of fouls – with 5 yellow cards in the first 45 minutes. Pelegrín was the third name in the ref’s book for a foul just outside the box on Pedro on 34 minutes and Xavi took a quick free kick to the back post, where Piqué chested the ball down and volleyed home from close range for the opener.
Messi and Neymar double up and Pedro makes it six
Elche actually started the second half well, with a couple of half breaks after some sloppy defending from Barça, but when Neymar was fouled in the box by the unfortunate Pelegrín on 52 minutes, Messi made no mistake from the spot and the flood gates were about to open. The hosts weren’t helped by a red card for Fajr on the hour and soon Messi and Neymar were weaving patterns through the home defence. Two goals in two minutes from the Brazilian – both set up by Messi – made it four and a lovely through ball from Bartra sent in the Argentinean for his 21st league goal of the season on 87 minutes. That looked to be that before Neymar raced down the right in the final seconds and crossed for Pedro to tap home and make it six.
Next stop, Atlético Madrid on Wednesday night (9.00am CET).
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