Barça 3 – Real Zaragoza 1, as hands are steadily moving toward the cookie jar

It’s Lev time again, who along with nzm continues to carry the weight for your laggardly mods. And these efforts are much appreciated. Fear not, homie should have his own name before long ….)

Alfajor, (Spanish pronunciation: [alfaˈxor], plural alfajores; derived from Arabic:الفاخر‎, “luxury”, “exquisite”)*

An Alfajor is, you guessed it, a cookie. It consists of two biscuits pasted together with jam, mousse or other stuff, depending on where exactly on the globe you find yourself. It is coated with sugar, chocolate or other stuff, again depending on which corner of the planet you do your shopping. Especially loved in Argentina, it is also eaten in other South American countries and in some regions of Spain. At the time of this writing, tantalized by the picture above, my girlfriend desperately wants one. But she can’t have any, because she hasn’t scored a goal.

And He sure didn’t start well. Just over ninety seconds into the game and already he squandered an absolute sitter, his shot aimed wide. He lost the leather left and right, handily defended by eager Zaragozanos fully prepared to prove their mettle. Heck, El Cerebro slipped him a pass from less than 10 feet and he let it bounce 20 feet off of his foot with a first touch chunkier than bad yogurt. A long ball to his best friend/fiercely hated colleague David Villa Sánchez was easily intercepted. Double heck, only a couple of minutes after that he lost the ball twice in a single minute!

The player that has journalists admitting to have run out of words to describe him, didn’t cause any such problems on Saturday. Not at all. He’s not all that. Overrated, is more like it. Wasteful. Sloppy. Undeserving of the golden praise showering down from rainbows spread across the globe.

But let’s not wake up the haters just yet. To deal with a team we had comfortably dealt with on our previous eight encounters, Doctor Tito sent out VV, Montoya, Puyol, Pique, Alba, Song, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Messi and Villa. Cesc started the game on the bench for the first time in La Liga this season, as did Dani Alves for whom, if this trend keeps up, the novelty might wear off sooner rather than later. Joining Fabregas and Alves on the pine were Busi, Tello, Dos Santos and Pinto. The wood is deep nowadays, and gone are the years of complaining about a lack of options beyond the starting line-up.

The visitors kicked off, and didn’t waste any time in giving us the ball. El Guaje, back in his comfort zone on the left, found Jordi Alba running toward the end line who in turn set up la Pulga for the first chance of the game. The next quarter of an hour was spent in the all-too-familiar pattern of Barça looking for an opening, and our guests lurking on the counter. The fifteen minutes during which Xavi Hernandez reigned supreme along with Don Andrés were a beauty to behold — during which Villa touched the ball more than he had done the whole previous game. During which Song moved around the stage in sometimes-awkward positions but still sang well (one notable false note aside). During which Alba kept bombing up and down the field like Forrest Gump with a brain. And during which the best player of the world most definitely wasn’t.

And then Xavi, the MOTMOTM**, broke up an attack deep in our own half. He kept the ball close to his feet as he danced across the pitch PJ Gangnam style, turning several Zaragoza players inside out before giving the ball to Messi. La Pulga wasted no time in losing his marker and passed it forward to Jordi Alba who, with an understanding that can only have come from playing together for years upon years, held back and deliberately waited for Leo to position himself perfectly to receive the ball … perfectly … and then drop his shoulder … perfectly … to wrong-foot the keeper … perfectly … and deposit the ball in the net. He might have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed, but he is still Lionel Messi.

Give that man his cookie!

Up 1-0, enjoying a record-breaking best-ever league start and playing a team we have beaten so many consecutive times, they should be called Zarasufre instead of Zaragoza whenever they find themselves on the same football pitch as us, a group of the best players on the planet against a group of the best players in uhmmm, well, Aragón. This should be easy, right? Rrrrright. Not quite.

Numerous as the x’s in our win column undoubtedly are; top of the table we might stand, and mighty we may be: we still give away goals like a drug lord handing out toys in the ghetto at Christmas. You know it, I know it. We know it and they know it. And in case anybody forgets, don’t worry. Our players consistently demonstrate a high sense of responsibility to remind us.

The return of Puyol has given us hope, perhaps never more so than the moment he came flying through the air to head out a corner shortly after our opening goal. And I must admit it felt good to see him scream at his teammates. But right now our defense has huge holes, and even when we work as a team and bust our butts to close down those holes, we still like to make sure our opponents have a fair chance. This time it was Montoya’s turn as he, instead of booting the ball upfield like any other defender in his position would have done when defending a corner, decided to set up Montañes for the equalizer.

Puyol, with a whole lot more yelling to do.

Our mental make-up has seemingly fallen into a weird plus-minus pattern this season. On one hand, we are seemingly committing at least one blunder every game that not only very often results in needlessly conceded goals, but also invites each and every opponent to believe in themselves and really have a go at us, knowing that counters and set pieces will result in scoring opportunities.

On the other hand, our response to our costly blunders has almost invariably been to score more goals. In adversity we straighten our backs and aim for the jugular. Call it the “give up a freebie” ying to the “come from behind” yang. In this game it meant that if our initial lead was short lived, less so was the level score that followed. Xavi sent a peach of a through ball to Messi, forcing the Zaragoza keeper Roberto to come out of the penalty area in an attempt to and intercept with his feet. The resulting corner kick was taken low, and the ball was worked to Messi who found himself inside the box, surrounded by defenders. He slipped away from between his two immediate markers so fast it almost looked like a glitch in a computer game, and easily dribbled past a third before coolly passing the ball to Song for his first goal in blaugrana colors.

We one-touched our way into halftime, with both teams creating one chance each. And although there was a lot of pretty midfield play, which at no moment whatsoever got boring, not much was created in the second half … except of course for Messi’s second goal, a 20 yard-or-so strike of such beauty and precision that somewhere south of where I’m sitting, Pele is still shaking his head in denial. He is overrated. People favor him because of his media image. It’s his teammates who make him brilliant. He hasn’t done it yet on a wet, stormy night on Pluto against three-legged alien monsters.

… All the while ignoring the simple truth. Yes, Iniesta’s elegance at times mesmerized defenders. Xavi played like a boss and probably had his best game so far this season. Jordi Alba was immense, both a persistent offensive threat while at the same time making more key interceptions than any other defender. Pedrito ran his butt off, too. Song was solid, as was the defense, two Montoya howlers not withstanding. But only one made the difference. He was everywhere. The spearhead of the offense, who sometimes dropped two lines back to pick up the ball and set the tempo. Who started sloppily but ended with two goals and one assist. Who assisted the assist makers of his goals. The best player of the world, a culé through and through.

“When I was small, a person at the club told me that for every goal he would give me an alfajor. And when I ran onto the pitch to play I was thinking about the cookie. I really appreciate what the club has done for me in giving me the opportunity to fulfill my dream. My dream at the moment is to finish my career here before retiring in Argentina.”

–Lionel Andrés Messi

*Thank you, wikipedia
**Man of the Match other than Messi, I believe a Blitzen trademark boldy stolen without shame or remorse.

By Kxevin

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


    1. Also, you only have to credit someone 5 times and then you can use it with no credit at all. 🙂 That’s a rule my friends and I came up with.

  1. He hasn’t done it yet on a wet, stormy night on Pluto against three-legged alien monsters.
    Pffft! I don’t think much of the Pluto premiere league anyway. Scotland in the Kuiper Belt!

    Well done again, Lev! And give that girlfriend a cookie!

  2. alfajores! i only know them from san salvador! too cheap, too good….i ate wayyyyy too many. had no idea they were known elsewhere. caramel in the middle. yummmm.

    tasty like good barca football.

    and lev reviews.

    1. They look like Zebra Cakes to me and not a big fan personally. Much rather go with an Oatmeal Cream Pie!

  3. Ray Ray on Messi’s first goal:

    “Yah, rabbit hole attack…there’s just too many burrows to cover here. And the boys upstairs — are going disco. All the hurt and the reserves see Barcelona at its best. Wonderful finish this time, he passes it into the net, he almost apologizes to the net as the ball is traveling towards it. But he punishes it anyhow.

    “Wonderful beginning– Messi starts it, gets it back beautifully. Jordi Alba, putting it right into stride. Lovely little kiss back. [Messi] sees it… one wonderful touch to caress it. Heavenly. Past the on-running Alvaro, and he bamboozles Alvaro. The settlement is divine. The finish is maaagesterial.”

    1. Ray Ray on the Song goal:

      “But who supplies it? Do you really need to know? Messi. He finds him, Messi could have found Higgs boson, if they just asked him! Beautiful ball steered in by Alex and he runs straight over and plants a big wet kiss on the daddy. Beautiful Messi, ridin’ em like buckin’ broncos. Wonderful pull back, magnificent. But no more deserved player to score it, than this man [Song]”

    2. Actually, Ray Ray should get his science updated. They found the Higgs Boson. Or to be more accurate, they found a Higgs Boson like particle. It turns out the Hadron collider wasn’t a huge waste. Funny how science works.

      Maybe Messi can find something else? I would ask which came first the chicken or the egg, but between you and I, it’s the chicken. It has to be the chicken.

    1. A very smart troll, but a troll nonetheless. Probably one of the usual provocateurs from the Guardian comments section.

    2. Typical English troll from what I read. His frustration with his own clubs failure to win silverware and lack of achievement and Barca’s historic success during Pep’s years in charge makes him a very very bitter troll! lol.

  4. The club plans to return to its plan of jetting hither and yon to hoover up friendly dollars, next pre-season. So be ready. And hell, presumably all that travel isn’t behind the rash of injuries, right? Because a long, travel-heavy pre-season will be perfect for the players, in front of a long, heavy season leading into a World Cup year. Yup.

    1. I guess Rosell wants to make use of his new airline, right…?

      (hey, it’s not like i don’t know that’s a bad joke…)

  5. Comfortable win in the end but Zaragoza played well although FCB were not anywhere near top level.

    The trip to Levante this weekend on the back of a CL game will be more taxing.

    I have some thoughts on the game at my blog if anyone is interested (or not!)

  6. friends…i wrote kxevin privately about this but then decided it’s probably ok to just ask everyone here…i am planning a trip to spain in the spring…and am going to catch some barca games…i want to see them both home and away…the away matches i would be looking at would be (one or more of) Vigo, Zaragoza, Bilbao, Atletico, Espanyol.

    i remember kxevin giving advice here at some point about buying tix at camp nou but cant remember anyone mentioning buying tickets at away matches. im going to search for the camp nou advice in blog archives, but if anyone wants to chime in on that, much appreciated.

    otherwise, what about these away venues? can i expect to get a ticket a few days in advance, or do i really need to do things even before i get into town? i guess i could look at stats to see how much these places sell out…but im looking for any wisdom people could impart to help me in my quest. i read that San Mames (Bilbao) is cheapest place in spain to get tickets, at 36 pounds (a bit less than $50 US). dont know if thats true, plus i would expect this game would sell out. any ideas you can give me of costs would be helpful as well.

    ive never been to europe and planning it is a bit bewildering… maybe it’s a brain deficiency…though truth is i do speak fluent spanish…its more just the planning of the whole thing. i mean, wondering whether theres something i should know, that i dont.

    NZM, i have a question for you as well, best directed directly to you, regarding some barcelona-specific stuff…if you have time and would let me know how to get ahold of you…or you could write me: chuchito {at.} u dot washington dot edu – if you do write me let me know cos i dont always check my email.

    thanks everyone VERY much

    1. ok well, i searched, and the discussion of this i was able to find (** was regarding camp nou tickets for el clasico. what about camp nou matches for lesser teams? easier/cheaper/same strategy? mallorca, levante, betis etc? is the advice still to try the online “lottery”? or to go in person to the ticket booth? day before, day of? etc.

      im not a soci, fwiw.

      again, THANKS.

    2. don’t really know about the tickets. i made my pilgrimage years ago watching Ronnie in his prime tear up Depor, but i bought my ticket online for the outrageous price of 60 euros.

      have fun in europe. I imagine it makes for a lot more relaxed traveling than El Salvador 🙂

    3. im sure you’re right…though, to me, el salvador is familiar, spain/europe is not…im sure once im there everything will be fine.

      i just figure that a little info beforehand could save me lots of time and money later…

    4. I’m not sure if it’ll be the same as when I was there, but when I wanted to get tickets for Atleti vs Barca at the Calderon last season, the only way they would let me obtain tickets was if I went on servicaixa (ticket website), purchased the tickets, and brought the printed receipt to the stadium to pick up my tickets. They completely refused to sell the actual tickets there, unlike at the Camp Nou.

      But it could just be a Calderon thing.

    5. We went through a great travel agency called Spain Top last year. Got us tickets to the Barca v Betis game and also for the Sevilla derby (last year’s 1-1 draw was much better than this year’s blowout in Sevilla). There is a stand on La Rambla where you can buy home game tickets.

      Be sure to drink a lot of hot chocolate (it’s thick there, almost like pudding) and eat a ton of churros, YUM! Have fun!

    1. S’mores?

      Sorry but no cookies today, Bassam. I’m too busy getting ready for Thanksgiving.

      Soooo, here’s a super simple recipe for you. Great for enjoying while watching Barca’s beautiful football 🙂 .

      S’mores Trail Mix
      1 box Golden Grahams cereal
      1 bag mini marshmallows
      1 bag chocolate chips
      Mix and enjoy. It’s that easy and sooooo good. Disappears in a house with 4 teen/college age kids in no time.

    2. Bassam lives in the US.
      For the rest:
      1 box of cinnamon graham type cereal
      a bag of marshmallows
      12 oz (please don’t make my figure out the metric equivalent) of chocolate morsels or chopped-up semi-sweet or dark chocolate

  7. Ray Ray on the 3-1 goal by messi (assist Montoya)

    “You dont know where to start, you dont know how to begin. But he knows how to finish. Again, hologram football by Barcelona. Messi, again, starts it. And the rejoicing of the name continues. This wonderful left leg, this left foot, is like a giant hypodermic needle. Iniesta feeds him, he’ll find the wide man and he’ll keep on going. And giving this much room to Leo is like giving Dracula a blood transfusion — it’s easy pickings for him. But look at the divine connection between eyes, to brain, to foot, to goal. The net, in disco land. Superlative bending of the ball by Messi — he could bend light, if he wanted.”

  8. Tonight’s game, what do y’all think? Apparently Spartak’s first 7 goalkeepers are injured, or something like that…

  9. I’m making plans for a pilgrimage in April. Which is the cooler neighborhood to stay in – Gracia or El Raval? I’m looking for a bohemian neighborhood vibe.

    Thanks BFBers!

    1. Gracia is upmarket, Raval is notorious to stay away from late at night – especially if you are weaving your way home after a big night. Muggers galore!

  10. Valdes
    Alves Pique Mascherano Alba
    Xavi Busquets Fabregas
    Pedro Messi Iniesta

    Bench: Pinto, Puyol, Montoya, Song, Dos Santos, Villa, Deulofeu

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