Barça 3 – Rayo Vallecano 1: a video diary

Note: this is not a ‘proper’ review. Ever since my favorite sports writer Bill Simmons did a retro video diary of one of his beloved Celtics games a while back, I have wanted to do one as well. What better occasion than an evening on which I cannot concentrate on ‘writing’ due to a group of unexpected visitors bringing three bottles of wine and one bottle of tequila to my humble abode (plus an appetite for the case of beer I had bought just a little while earlier)?


Min 1

Give credit where credit is due. As predicted, Rayo Vallecano was not afraid. Even the fact that there are fans behind both goals in our stadium did not confuse them. It took them less than a minute to take the game to our throats, as a nifty move created enough space to blast a shot narrowly wide of our goal.


Min 5

When it comes to missing goal opportunities, culés have seen it all. Iniesta and Dani Alves have a well known tendency to pass first and ask questions later. We’ve seen Spain’s leading scorer go on a fifteen game scoring drought. We’ve seen Alexis aim wide from 5 yards / shoot over from 4 yards / shoot at the keeper from 3 yards / trip over his own legs. And today we saw the one who might very well go down in history as the best to ever play the game receive the ball in front of an open net, mis-control it and then dribble 10 yards backwards to squander any chance the ball ever had to cross the chalked line between the goal posts.


Min 8

Yes. Pulga distance. I have an excellent feeling about this. After scoring about half a dozen in the first half of the season we were ready to declare him a free kick specialist, but then he went into a free kick slump: Over. Over. Wide. Post. Over. Wall. Over and Wide. Wall. Over. Over. It sucked, ok? It felt as if somebody had only just give me a puppy and it had run away. But then it came back (Leo scoring a free kick against Granada). So, yes, Pulga distance. I have an excellent feeling about this….Ooooooooh, so close! Messi hit the bar with a gorgeously curved shot.









Min 9

Don’t you just love it when strikers decide to drop themselves on the ground as if they got murdered by an invisible sniper instead of taking their chance and let off a shot?











I do. Roura doesn’t as he furiously gestures to the referee that he should give Dominguez a yellow card. As for myself, it usually doesn’t bother me that much when players dive. It bothers me when refs fall for it. And it also bothers me when refs give yellow cards to players for diving when they were actually fouled, or maybe just fell. It does happen from time to time. Maybe it’s just me, though.







Min 20

Adriano is gonna 1) shoot 2) pass or 3) pull his hamstring.

If he weren’t so ‘delicate’, would he have become an automatic starter for Barcelona? One would assume that between Dani Alves’ stink fest that lasted most of 2012 and Eric Abidal’s career crippling disease, at some point Adriano Correia would have been a starting back…if only he could have kept out of the emergency room, right? One can only wonder.

6Min 23

Dani Alves comes on for his countryman, sporting the kind of tan that Eminem has always dreamed of having.


Min 25

Gooooool! After Messi opened up the pitch with a touch that would make Iniesta jealous, he finds himself leading the break with options on the left and the right. He chooses his new BFF David Villa who kabooms the ball in the net. Futbol Club de Barcelona 1 – Rayo Vallecano 0.


Min 40

Gooool! El Guaje returns the favor…


…which Messi happily takes advantage of. Much has been made this season about our two top forwards not getting on well. Well, maybe it’s me, but they seem to be getting along just fine.


Min 44

Cesc, just like the whole of Barça today, had an up and down game. However, when he doesn’t start as a forward, his quality in the attacking third part of the pitch is undeniable as he puts Villa one-on-one with the keeper a minute before the break.


Villa shoots well wide, though.


Min 45+1, half time

An excellent first half for Barça. They could have been up by four or five goals, but then the Liga’s leading scorer would have had forty-two or forty-three goals instead of forty-one. Go figure…

11Min 48

Andrés Iniesta, honoring the captain’s band on his arm by having a great match so far, picks out the real Slim Shady Dani Alves with an excellent pass. For once in his life, Dani Alves does not pass it for one of two forwards to tap the ball into the net. He takes the shot and is unlucky to hit the post.


Min 49

Rayo Vallecano starts to come out of their shell. El Chori Dominguez drives a long range effort towards our goal which our resident pimp / temporary first goal keeper Pinto does well to block.

13Min 54

After mouthwatering work by Messi and Dani Alves takes the opposition’s goalkeeper out of play, a third blaugrana player receives the chance to score by shooting the ball past two defenders standing on the goal line. Guess who hides his face after shooting wide?

14Min 55

Barça escapes when Pique does not quite clear a corner and Cesc does not quite block a shot. Luckily Chori Dominguez’s (again) volley goes wide.

15aMin 56

A second corner is cleared and finds its way to David Villa who, despite having a defender hanging on to his shirt and short gets the ball to Messi…


…who upon receiving the ball a good thirty-five yards from the goal prompts the TV commentator to start screaming in anticipation: “¡gol de Messi! ¡gol de Messi! ¡gol de Messi!”


“¡goooooooooooooool de la pulga diabolicaaaa!…”

And to be honest, it is a beautiful goal. His run turns the defender irrelevant. His chip the goalkeeper obsolete. It has been a while since he has given us this, but there is only one. Lionel Messi.


Min 64

With Puyol out for up to three months, Xavi for up to three weeks and Valdés for another three games, our team was captained by Ghostface. When he makes way for Thiago in the 64th minute he passes the armband to Messi. Our future’s looking pretty good.


Min 69

Speaking of substitutions, do you remember this guy?

18Min 70

Well, you should. Barça 3 – Rayo Vallecano 1


Min 71

And they’re pressing for a second, the cheeky bastards!


Min 71

A pantheresque reflex by Rubén prevents a fourth Barcelona goal after a one-two between Messi and Villa.

21Min 73

Rayo Vallecano escapes when the Flea gets tripped up in the penalty area. The referee comes, sees and conquers inner peace.


Min 75

Rayo almost gets another goal. If there has ever been a player who has not been good enough to play for Barça and yet still spent his career scoring against us at will it’s Tamudo.

23Min 87

The MotM almost gets his hat-trick when, after dribbling past his defender, he chips Rubén a second time. If you are just like me you have just spent a good twenty-five minutes waiting and hoping for a fourth Barcelona goal. It is not to be as the ball goes just over.

By Levon

Culé since way before football boots were of the neon yellow and lizard green variety, Levon is a deep thinker with increasingly shallow thoughts. He lives in Barcelona with his gorgeous wife and daughter. The lucky bastard...


  1. And just like that…El Guaje is back in the starting XI

    Now 6 more wins and La Liga is wrapped up 😀

    1. I guess our young superstars Bartra, Montoya, Tello, Thiago etc and even Alex song will get more playing time only after the season is wrapped up..

      Really upset not to see them getting playing time atleast towards the end of this match!

      Anyway, the look of satisfaction on Villa’s face is enough to make you feel better any day! And nice article Levon. 🙂

    2. Agreed. I don’t understand how Bartra and Montoya were good enough to play in the beginning of the season yet right now they can’t even get any garbage time.

    3. Was there really any garbage time in that match? We had Pinto delaying a goal-kick in the 90+1 minute to give the team some respite from the last minute Rayo attack.

      Would you have really taken off Alves/Alba and Pique/Masch to give Montoya and Bartra time in that game last night?

      Rayo was all over our defence, especially after Ini was subbed off, and to put one of those guys in at that stage would have put Barca to the sword.

      Bringing Song in for Cesc was the right decision to secure the win.

      It’s not about being fair – it’s about playing the right players to help the team to win.

    4. Agreed. This wasn’t a game to bring them in. Especially, with Rayo’s high pressure. It would’ve been unfair on the kids and maybe they would’ve made a mistake in the back that would’ve been psychologically damaging. We needed our top players for this game. I never take Rayo lightly and they have earned my respect. I love their coach and their attitude. I wish them well and hope they find a place in Europa.

  2. Fun synopsis of the game, Lev – hope that you’re not suffering too badly this morning from the alcoholic after-effects!

    Interesting to note that our possession stat was once again low against Rayo. I think that in the first game in October, it was also about 55% with 53% in last night’s game.

    I still don’t mind it when the goals are being scored, but that little loss in focus in the mid-field (after Iniesta was subbed off) almost cost us more than 1 goal. It took Song coming on to bring it back in line.

    Not sure whether it was obvious to everyone but, late into over-time, Pinto got a Yellow for delaying his goal-kick. Not really sure that it was necessary, but he took one for the team. He only has 1 Yellow, so it shouldn’t impact the next 2 games in which he has to play.

    The team did enough for the win last night and that’s all that mattered. A few loose passes which could have provided a more interesting game had Rayo been able to capitalise on them.

    Just marvelling at that last Messi goal – what a counter. Villa was brilliant to get that ball away as he did.

    Watch the Messi build-up in slo-mo if you can. That last touch on the ball (before he shot it) was the key. The ball went away from him, and he simply lengthened his stride to catch up with it and to shake the defender, and then chipped Ruben. Sublime stuff.

    1. His goal was awesome, as was the flick with which he put the ball through the defenders legs in order to break out for Villa’s goal.

      He has one of the most flawless techniques in the world, but people don’t see it because he is so pragmatic. The most difficult thing is to make the game seem so simple.

      Then again, he could have scored three or four had he been a bit sharper yesterday.

    2. All three goals and all three assists were beautiful. Had me yelling like Ray Ray (only not waxing quite as poetic—it’s just not in me)

    3. THAT flick was a thing of beauty! I was jaw dropped. 🙂 What a lovely slow rolling ball just past the defender to serve up Villa on a silver platter! He’s the best! The amazing thing about the chip to me was how he made the defender inconsequential. He turned him to the right and then just BLEW by him with ease. That was after 30+ yards at 4th gear! Amazing. Then to have the presence to chip the keeper is breathtaking. We saw 3 sublime goals today. It was an amazing performance by our 2 top scorers.

  3. Not sure why everyone seems surprised at Villa. If you take an attacker and make him part of the attack, rather than sacrificing him to some stupid notion of “tactical width,” of course he will reward by being active, involved and productive. Villa is quality. Pair him with a player like Messi who occupies many defenders and he is even more effective.

    Still haven’t seen the missed Sanchez chance but sleep came calling just after the first half, in which Sanchez was badass. Everywhere all at once.

    Busquets was funky today, but Fabregas actually looked like he had life in his legs. Good to see.

    Adriano’s injury comes at an unfortunate time for him. It is difficult not to imagine the club putting some sort of “matches played” incentive in his contract. His injuries have been absurd this season, from the viewpoint that muscular injuries are preventable.

    I am going to hazard a guess that someone isn’t doing everything that the physios are prescribing for him. Every time he hurts himself, it’s the hamstring. Crazy.

    1. Not surprised at Villa. As you would say, form is temporary, class is permanent.

      Busi was indeed funky. I was surprised that Song didn’t start as Busi had to work so hard in the Milan game.

    2. The irritating thing for me is that Villa could have been back to being Villa long before now, though. Still at least we seem to have stumbled on the answer in time. Now looking forward to the big games ahead which probably means that Villa will do his hamstring in the next match !
      Agreed on Busi. He was way off the pace mentally. Wonder if there was something wrong? He usually copes with pressing pretty well.
      The other thought I had ( and I know folks will think I’m hitting on Thiago) was how slow he is and how poor his defensive positioning is. In this game there were at least a couple of times his man left him as if he wasn’t there, partly because he didnt do the running in the first place to get goal side.

      On the plus side, Alba seems to be realising more of his defensive duties. I reckon he could be great next season once he irons out one or two things.

    3. Sanchez’s chance wasn’t as easy as I made it out to be, in all fairness. Still should have scored, though.

      I think he had a good game. He made some great plays but he lacked decisiveness at a couple of key moments when he got close to the goal.

    4. One of those is when he was virtually one vs one against a defender and keeper and held the ball up to play Messi in, who wasn’t even close to the play. His pass, in the end, was pathetic, and picked off. That’s where confidence comes into play. He can’t always wait for Messi or anyone else to come and score. He needs to be aggressive and take the initiative.

    5. Yes, I was referring to that exact play, even more so than any other moment in the match, including his miss which was harder than it looked (although he should have at least shot it at the goal).

    6. But then his assist in the box to Alves should have been a goal, but Alves scuffed it – and that’s being polite to Dani!

    7. Very true, also. I was yelling extra hard at Dani Alves for missing that chance because it robbed Alexis of his shine, lol.

  4. Great game. Always love Rayo, to me they’re like a Laliga version of Swansea or are swansea the PL’s Rayo? Eitherways, love their courage and footballing culture.

    Onto the dreaded international break, Hope the FIFA virus does not return our players infected. We’re really starting to feel it now.

  5. Well done, Lev! I really enjoyed reading this.

    I wasn’t surprised that Bartra didn’t start yesterday, as he is just back from injury, but I really expected that Song would get the nod. If not now, when? And this was possibly Busquets’ worst performance of the season. Not that he was awful, but he just did not look sharp at all. He should have been rested.

    This week it is trendy to beat up on Fabregas, but I didn’t think he was bad. Not especially good, but he did what he was supposed to, making space for the forwards and supplying the ball. He also lost a lot of balls, but so did everyone else. Even Messi shot a pass straight at a Rayo player! Funky.

    Stand-out players: Pinto! He earned his paycheque by making several excellent saves and committing no major errors. We have fun at his expense for his Pintocalypse moments, but Pinto is still playing at a very high level. He didn’t get renewed just because Messi likes him. Second MOTM would be David Villa. This was the best game he has played in ages. Even better than against Milan. You can actually see his confidence lifting his performance. And third, Dani Alves. The entire team improved when Dani came on, as Adriano wasn’t very effective even before his injury. Dani was everywhere, harassing the Rayo players for the ball, making runs, playing off Messi and Sanchez, and generally being a big fat pain in the ass for Rayo defenders. Excellent performance.

    1. Thanks Blitz!

      motm was Messi for me – despite of the bad passes and missed chances he was just so darn decisive.

      A lot of people were thinking that D.A. was gonna take it easy after signing his new contract (I admit that the thought had most definitely crossed my mind as well). Very excited that the opposite is happening. Let’s hope he continues to prove all doubters wrong.

  6. Oh, and I wonder if there are people still saying that Jordi Roura is clueless and over his head? Probably not since that first Milan goal, I reckon.

    It’s funny, because coaches get blamed and get credit for so much. In this hazy, crazy game it comes down to players doing the job that they are supposed to be doing. If they do, coaches look good. If they don’t, coaches look bad. Players have even successfully gotten coaches fired by underperforming.

    It’s like when a coach gets fired and a new coach comes in. Rarely do you see what happened when Guardiola took over our club. Usually you see a few games bump, based on pure adrenaline, then the team returns to its normal level, and an interim coach becomes a guy looking for a job.

    1. Players getting coaches fired? No way, that wouldn’t happen would it? Chelski last year rings a bell though.

    1. Alexis seem to like to play against Rayo, there’s a clear reason to it as well – more space. I think Villa-Messi-Alexis is the best Barca have at the moment.
      Last year scored a brace, played on both wings and was MOTM (for those who just lives only today and don’t remember or don’
      t want to admit that he was Barca’s 2nd best striker last season)

    2. He was most definitely Barça’s second best forward last season. But honestly considering how crappy Pedro and Villa were (El Guaje even before his injury) he didn’t really have any competion.

      I also think that one of the reasons people have critized Lexus so much this season is that we expected him to improve upon last season.

    3. Exactly! he wasn’t crappy and stepped up at the right time when the team needed him the most. Villa was quite bad beofre his injury, cules don’t seem to remember that very clearly.

    4. Frankly I wasn’t convinced during Villa’s first season either, the first half of which he scored a lot but people were constantly complaining about him being off-side and out of sync. And the latter half I seem to recall a 15 game streak in which he did not score (my memory might be a bit foggy here, help me out someone!).

      This could shape up to be his best season yet at Barcelona. I read in Sport that his finishing rate is above 40% right now… Absolutely staggering!

    5. Villa was quite bad beofre his injury, cules don’t seem to remember that very clearly.

      Before Villa actually broke his leg, he had been playing for several months through the pain of a stress fracture in his tibia.

      Some cules don’t seem to remember that very clearly.

  7. regarding the video that someone posted of messi meeting baggio in previous thread: well, it was cute, you can see how timid messi is even after scoring 4 against arsenal.

    basically, the convo is: baggio says he loves to go hunting in argentina, but in some spot that messi isnt familiar with. pep tells messi that baggio was the best he ever played with…and that baggio had 6 or 7 knee operations and was still great, but his big tummy got him in the end.

    at one point the other guy says that on one of the goals, messi had the ball well away from goal and baggio announced “Goal” — and sure enough, messi scored. like the announcer Levon mentions above on messi’s 2nd vs Rayo.

    looks like messi understands italian. the parts in italian arent given subtitles, so i didnt understand, but i think it was just a bit of small talk.

    1. * actually i think its fairly common for native spanish speakers to understand italian (and vice versa)…in a general sense…

    2. Thanks for the info, that’s pretty cool to know!

      I am a big fan of Ray Ray’s metaphors, even though I never watch the games in English. However the announced “¡gol de Messi!” when he only just got the ball from Villa is my commentator-moment-of-the-year so far. Electric!

      And yes, Italian is pretty understandable for native Spanish speakers… and for Argentinians possibly even more so!

    3. Thank you so much for that.
      Even if clueless, I loved watching that video. Cant remember seeing any other video involving Pep, in an informal tone. And its Pep, Messi and Baggio too.

      Also, do you know what Pep and Baggio are talking about, before Messi arrives, please

    4. i think mostly they were talking about how great messi is, but i wasnt paying much attention. i think they were mostly speaking in italian.

  8. I know it’s been the popular belief on here that Busi was “off sync” or our of rhythm yesterday, but from what I saw he was one of our best defenders. He put in some challenges and tackles that, had he not done so, would’ve left our defense totally exposed. I thought he was wonderful. Again. I can’t say enough good things about him. He wasn’t zipping the ball through the midfield to our forwards, like he did vs Milan, but I don’t recall him ever doing it that much. That was more a tactical change for me, against an opposition that was clearly parking the bus in the San Siro. Yesterday, he was playing against a high pressing team that wasn’t sitting back, so he didn’t need to make those passes. Just so I’m clear, what is it that he didn’t do so well at, or was our of sync with?

    1. For me a lot of misplaced passes and a propensity to get caught on the ball which is not the usual Busi. I say that as one of his biggest admirers.

    2. Busquets was definitely off. But he isn’t supposed to be or allowed to be off, because he is BUSQUETS. Other players should have the same luxury.

      Fact of the matter is that most human players, in every match, have plays that are lousy, and plays that are wonderful. Vs Milan, Mascherano was defined by the error he made on the long pass to Niang, rather than things like the double tackle he made in rapid succession, countless interventions or the interception that directly led to the third goal. No. Because of one play, Mascehrano was branded a mess, helped by the idiot announcer who was riding him like a rented mule.

      Busquets had some lovely plays, and he also had some funky plays. All of them did. Sanchez is another example. His excellent overall play was eradicated by that single miss. And yet nobody, but nobody discusses (well, I did) the Fabregas/Messi cock-up in the first half that is only funny now because the team won 3-1.

      The team wasn’t sharp yesterday, from top to bottom, and I would have been surprised if it had been. It just seems to me that we should stop defining players by one thing or another. It’s why the review ratings were such a pain in the butt, and so hotly contested. Busquets probably would have gotten a 4 from me yesterday, and people would have been calling for my head. But looking at a match on aggregate is a lot more complex.

  9. I’m not sensing anyone getting on Busi’ s case unnecessarily. I’m certainly not. He has consistently been one of our top players in a very difficult position where one mistake lets the at our defence. Yesterday he made a lot more mistakes than usual which I think was worthy of comment.

    I also wasn’t having a go at Masch after Milan because overall he wasn’t bad. However, he has a long history of making unnecessary mistakes which make him unsuitable imo for that position long term although I do admire his attitude. A lack of vital mistakes, not a lack of mistakes defines a defender.

    Alexis I just don’t get what some are seeing. I had a look at the video posted and saw one decent move that Dani fluffed. The rest was nothing to write home about and it omitted the poor bits of which there were many. Guess we’ll just have to wait on this one to see if he’s still here next season. My position hasn’t changed. Barcelona needs three forwards capable of scoring 20 per season which allows one to have a lean spell. No, I don’t think the rest of the team can make up the shortfall, not while we have Xavi, Iniesta, Busi, Dani etc. I can see an argument for selling Villa in the summer but not if keeping Alexis as a forward.

    Finally, Messi has been carrying this team results wise for two or three seasons now. The whole world can see that. I haven’t mentioned Messi’s cock up because he happened to score two incredible goals and set up the third. I don’t have a go at that. I thank The Lord he’s on our side.

    Sorry, a bit cranky tonight. The snow is piling down here and the kids at school are gonna be wild tomorrow. Doesn’t excuse grumpiness, I know 🙂

    1. You just used the words snow, kids, and school in the same sentence. I can excuse your grumpiness.

  10. Have to hand it to you, Jim, you have probably been Villa’s staunchest defender round these here parts this year. I personally didn’t see him as a starter anymore. Sometimes I just love to be proved wrong, though…let’s hope Alexis proves you wrong!

    “A lack of vital mistakes, not a lack of mistakes defines a defender.”

    Completely agree. I admirer Masche too and I love that he is part of our team, but the thought of him being a 1st choice defender makes me squeezy.

  11. “And the latter half [of Villa’s first season] I seem to recall a 15 game streak in which he did not score (my memory might be a bit foggy here, help me out someone!)”

    Okay, challenge accepted. Reviewing 2010-11 on Wikipedia, the likely timeframe is Jornadas 26 – 32, seven consecutive Liga games in which Villa does not score, and then gets back on the scoresheet for Jornada 33. The dates are March 2nd through April 23rd.

    Interestingly, Villa, Messi, and Pedro all score in Jornada 25. Pedro does not score in the Liga for the rest of the season (thirteen matches). Messi does not get on the scoresheet for eight of the thirteen matches between Jornada 26 and 38. I remember commentary during that period being, “everybody but our forwards are scoring.”

    Anyway, the other competitions, between March 2nd and April 23rd. There is only one Copa del Rey match, the Final on April 20th. Unfortunately we will all remember that no Barça player scored, and we lost to Tristiano’s header.

    In the CL, there were three matches — the 2nd leg of the Arsenal tie, and the quarters against Shaktar Donesk. Villa does not score in any of them (though he did get the vital away goal in the 1st leg of the Arsenal tie). There are eight Barça goals in those three games, Messi only scores two of them. Pedro doesn’t score any (his drought lasts from March 2nd through May 3rd, in the RM 2nd leg). Again with the everyone but forwards scoring!

    So, in all, 11-match streak without scoring for Villa, even more than that for Pedro, and Messi pretty patchy during that time as well. And then, all three of MVP on the scoresheet for that glorious CL final…

  12. Well, after Jornada 33, Villa doesn’t score again until the CL Final, so while the consecutive “streak” is broken, substantially he’s still in a funk for another six games or so. Though we were getting Bojan, Afellay, and Thiago goals at that point, so without digging into lineups, would appear there was rotation going on and there may be Liga games that he and Pedro didn’t actually play in, so may not be entirely fair to tar them with “didn’t score for the rest of the season.”

    Anyway, I agree with replayed’s comment regarding Villa not playing well in 2011-12 “even prior to injury,” as if what we have been told is true, the stress fracture showed up during the summer after Wembley and he was playing with pain from that point onward. So there really is no part of the 2011-12 season that is “prior” to injury… (Still don’t understand why they waited until the bone actually broke to do anything about it!)

  13. Logging in to say how awesome this review was, Lev! That Barca fan pic had me lol-ing for a while. :mrgreen:

    Y’all can watch the full match (in Spanish) here, no downloading necessary:

    First Half:

    Second Half: *

    1. There was a quick shot of him early on from the back as he walked towards the Rayo bench that made me do a double take ’cause I could have sworn it was Pep. The shaved head, the cut of the suit, the gait. It was eerie.

  14. Villa on the left is exactly where you want your mumber 2 striker. Messi spends the whole game cutting from right to left and feeding Villa, who doesn’t have to provide much width because he has Alba outside him.
    But as Pedro and Alexis have found, the right side can be a bit of a black hole for scoring.

    1. That is weird!!

      It’s almost as if Alexis is telling Iniesta to stop whining at the ref for the penalty and get back and defend!

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