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PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

Barça continue to pile on the pressure behind the leaders, with their ninth win on the run in Zaragoza tonight. After an early goal from Aranda, following a penalty save at 0-0 from Valdes, Barça struggled to impose their trademark game, but still pulled ahead thanks to goals from Puyol and Messi as the team put in a collective performance of courage and character.

In the second half, Barça took advantage of Zaragoza’s playing with just ten men after Abraham was sent off and finished off the game with a Messi penalty and a fourth from Pedro.

Valdés proves decisive

Zaragoza began by pressing Barça upfield and keeping them from imposing their normal short passing possession game. With Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta sat on the bench, it was Keita, Thiago and Cesc who were charged with taking control in the middle, but there was a lack of precision in their play and Zaragoza were able to create danger by putting long balls in behind the visitors’ defence, one of which led to Valdes fouling Lafita and giving away a penalty. He made up for it though, by anticipating Aranda’s effort and making what could prove to be a vital save come May.

Aranda opener

Zaragoza didn’t let that get to them though and a few minutes later Aranda got lucky when Valdes parried the strikers’ shot back onto his head, leaving him with an easy opportunity which he took with gusto. Unfortunately for the hosts, that goal seemed to spur Barça who now began to look more direct and pacey and within ten minutes they’d turned the score around.

Immediate reaction

Soon after Zaragoza’s opener, Alexis and Cesc had a double chance to equalise, but the attack ended in a corner, from which Puyol scored after a poor clearance from Roberto. Two minutes later a quick counter from a Zaragoza corner saw Messi fire home with a great finish to put Barça ahead. There was still time before the break for more action, as Abraham saw a second yellow after stopping Alexis in his tracks as the Chilean once again looked to break free.

Messi and Pedro finish the game off

Alexis was soon back into the groove in the second half, when Roberto pulled off a fantastic stop to keep him out, but the game was being played at a frantic pace, which Guardiola reacted to by bringing on Busquets for Keita to bring some order to the midfield. Barça now began to take control and both Thiago and Messi had the chance to score the third before Alexis was brought down in the box and Messi fired home from the penalty spot.

Barça didn’t sit back though, and a great move between Messi and Pedro ended with the Spanish winger getting his first goal since the Cup quarter final against Madrid to round offa great performance in which the team showed the character of champions.


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