F.C. Barcelona has something to prove this season.
After finishing the 2013/2014 season without any trophies, the Catalan giants responded with a resounding victory against bottom dwellers Elche, beating them by a score of 3-0. The league opener, which took place at the Camp Nou, could not have looked any different from the lackluster performances that fans got used to seeing at the end of last years campaign.
Barcelona dominated the entire 90 minutes of the match, hardly allowing Elche a touch of the ball. In fact, Barca was so dominant that the visitors in green only held possession for 28% of the match and failed to get a single shot on target. Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was little more than a glorified cheerleader as his defense and midfield put on a clinic on the East coast of Spain.
The little Argentinian, Lionel Messi, opened up the scoring when he made a quick turn after receiving the ball at the edge of the penalty area. “La Pulga” left three Elche defenders in his wake as he calmly slotted the ball past their keeper and right inside the far post, a vintage Messi goal.
18-year-old wonder Munir El Haddadi also made headlines in the opening match as he filled in for the ailing Pedro and Neymar. The young Spanish winger nearly got himself on the score sheet early in the match when he powerfully blasted a shot past Elche keeper Tyson. The ball careened off the cross-bar like a cannon-shot, but Munir responded well and got his goal just after the second half whistle sounded.
After receiving a clever Andres Iniesta pass that left Elche defenders tied up, Munir cooly tapped the ball past Tyson, a great finish from the youngster. The great Messi finished the game off with one of his signature goals. After taking possession of the ball at the right hand side of the box he cut onto his left and created space as he does so well. His low shot left Tyson rooted to the ground.
The thing that stood out to me most was the energy and pace at which the Barcelona team competed with. While Messi was criticized last season for not running and looking lethargic, today he was all over the pitch. His efforts in his own half helped Barcelona regain possession at least four times. The ball moved between red and blue shirts with an explosive pace as their pass and move tactics worked to perfection. The great Sergio Busquets hardly touched the ball more than once as he distributed the ball all over the pitch.
Jeremy Mathieu proved to all the doubters that his signing was no mistake. His powerful left foot boomed long passes to the forwards and helped get attacking play moving. His speed and tackling skills were on display a few times as he hunted down Elche attackers and swiftly took the ball in thief like fashion. Iniesta and his new Croatian partner, Ivan Rakitic, showed chemistry that takes other duo’s years to obtain.
For Barcelona fans and Luis Enrique, today could not have been any sweeter. The side looked inspired and played with great energy, something that Enrique has tried to instill in his squad since day one.