Skip to content

Offshore drilling, UEFA Champions League: Barcelona 3, at Spartak Moscow 0

Nov 20, 2012, 2:26 PM EDT

FBL-EUR-C1-SPARTAK-BARCELONA Getty Images

Barcelona had their easiest match of the Champions League season, their long trip to Moscow met with little resistance in a 3-0 win over floundering Spartak Moscow.

With the victory, Barcelona has clinched a spot in the tournament’s second round. Should Celtic lose at the Estadio de Luz later today, Barcelona will clinch first place in Group G.

Right back Dani Alves opened the scoring in the 16th minute, his half-volley of a blocked Lionel Messi shot finding the lower left corner from 19 yards out.

Before halftime, Messi added his fourth and fifth goals of the competition, settling the matter before the sides went into intermission.

Man of the Match: With two first half goals, Lionel Messi raised his 2012 all-competition total to 80, five behind Gerd Müller’s all-time record. His first was a right-footed finish from the edge of the area, converting after Spartak keeper Andrey Dikan had blocked an Andres Iniesta shot. The second saw Messi take a Pedro Rodríguez pass and dribble around Dikan before finishing into an open net from just inside the six-yard box.

Messi has up to 10 matches remaining in 2012. If his usage pattern holds, he’ll appear in almost all of them. With a hot streak, Messi could eclipse 100 goals.

Threesome of knowledge: What we learned

For better and worse, Barcelona looked their normal selves.

Let’s concentrate on the good with this bullet point, because an elegant display from Barcelona shouldn’t be overshadowed. Spartak’s passive defensive posture meant Barça wasn’t pushed to the frantic extremes that bring Barcelona’s best, Barça was allowed enough time on the ball to complete a number of uncharacteristically long, perfectly executed passes, particularly during their first half push. Xavi chips over the top, Messi swinging the ball wide for Iniesta, long probing sliders picking out gaps in the Spartak defense – Barça was given a chance complement their tiki taka.

While those moments were abnormal for Barcelona, the tenor of the performance wasn’t. After Dani Alves’ opening goal, Barça seemed to play the match at three-quarter speed, Emery’s approach allowing Barcelona’s bursts to augment out of their spans of calm control. Never bothered to break their gallop, Barcelona pranced to a typically easy victory.

Defending wide continues to be a problem for Barcelona.

Barça has always been vulnerable behind Dani Alves, but in the past, Carles Puyol and Sergio Busquets have been able to mitigate that danger. With Eric Abidal at left back, Barcelona were always able to do an adequate job compensating for the right winger they employ in defense.

Now Jordi Alba’s at left back, and while he’d no Alves, he does push forward farther, more often, and with more persistence than Abidal. That leaves both flanks vulnerable, and without an Abidal-esque presence on the right, Barcelona doesn’t have as much support when the defense is forced to flatten out and cover the width of the pitch. Add in Puyol’s injury problems and you have a much more vulnerable team.

One first half counter from Spartak served as a perfect illustration. The movement started down the left (Alves’s side) before a long ball switched right found a man on Alba’s flank. The defense stretched, Spartak was able to find a player for an open half-volley in the middle of the penalty area.

Abidal is due back at the beginning of the year, though it’s unclear how much (or if) he’ll play. Puyol was on the bench today, as was Alex Song. Barcelona has options. They just need to decide how vulnerable they’re willing to be.

Time to pass some judgments on Unai Emery.

Spartak has been generally unimpressive under new coach Unai Emery, but since their middling form had yet to cost them anything major, it was best to reserve judgment on the former Valencia man. After today’s loss, though, Spartak can’t advance to Champions League’s knockout round. If Benfica defeats Celtic later today, Spartak’s out of Europe.

Combined with a fifth-place standing in Russia (nine wins through 16 rounds), the Unai Emery era has been a worrying one for the People’s Team. In a Russian soccer culture that’s not shy about cutting bait with a coaching commitment, Emery’s putting himself in (more) trouble.

Spartak’s performance today at the Lizhniki was lacking in everything. There no inspiration in a team whose tournament sat in the balance. There was a hint of a plan (dispossess high, counter quick, otherwise absorb), but with no spirit backing it, the approach was set to fail. The backline seemed ill-prepared. The squad took a 2010 approach to 2012 Barcelona.

Other than “more time,” it’s hard to make an argument supporting Emery, if you call “more time” supportive.

Packaged for takeaway

  • José Jurado was useless today. Deployed as the attacking midfielder in Emery’s 4-2-3-1 formation, he had no impact. He was a wasted man when the team could have used more of a presence in front of the defense.
  • Spartak needed that presence because deep midfielders Rafael Carioca and Kim Kallström did little to prevent Barcelona from picking out holes in the defense.
  • At least, that’s what happened in the first half. With Barcelona up three at intermission, the second half was inconsequential. Spartak improved over the last 45 minutes, though it would have been difficult not to.
Latest Posts
  1. Georgios Samaras makes the move from Celtic to West Bromwich Albion

    Aug 22, 2014, 7:36 AM EDT

    West Brom West Brom

    The 29-year-old Greek national teamer will try to rebuild his Premier League image after tough times in Manchester from 2006-08.

  2. PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings – The Benefit of Mid-Week Edition

    Aug 22, 2014, 2:13 AM EDT

    joao_plata AP

    LA’s loss is RSL’s gain at the top of our pecking order.

  3. Torres in, Hernández and Jiménez out for Mexico matches against Chile, Bolivia

    Aug 21, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT

    LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 3: Erick Torres #9 of Chivas USA celebrates after scoring a goal against the Houston Dynamo on May 3, 2014 at StubHub Center in Los Angeles, California. Getty Images

    “Cubo” gets his first call from Miguel Herrera, while two established names stay in Europe.

  4. WATCH: Roberto Martínez talks Arsenal challenge, Ross Barkley injury

    Aug 21, 2014, 10:16 PM EDT

    Martinez AP

    Everton will get answers this weekend against Arsenal, while it’s still too soon to tell when Barkley will return.

  5. Vancouver sends Nigel Reo-Coker to Chivas USA for Mauro Rosales

    Aug 21, 2014, 9:26 PM EDT

    mauro_rosales Getty Images

    Something for nothing? Vancouver swaps a spare part for one of the league’s more prolific assist men.

  6. Howard and Donovan comparisons can only go so far

    Aug 21, 2014, 6:42 PM EDT

    United States v Canada Getty Images

    They’re both stars, both taking elective leave from their national team. That’s where the similarities end between Donovan and Howard.

  7. Howard’s international sabbatical means opportunity for Guzan, Johnson and Hamid

    Aug 21, 2014, 5:22 PM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-EVERTON-NEWCASTLE Getty Images

    A new starter will have his chance to stake his claim, while another player will get more looks in camp with the third keeper’s role.

  8. Tim Howard taking a break from U.S. international duty

    Aug 21, 2014, 4:09 PM EDT

    Brazil Soccer WCup US Germany AP

    The 35-year-old is taking a step back, making himself unavailable for selection until Sept. 2015.

  9. LMA describe Malky Mackay texts as ‘banter’ as online apology issued

    Aug 21, 2014, 3:19 PM EDT

    Cardiff City v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    LMA statement: “These were two text messages sent in private at a time Malky felt under great pressure and when he was letting off steam to a friend during some friendly text message banter.”

  10. Queens Park Rangers sign Chilean international Eduardo Vargas on loan

    Aug 21, 2014, 2:40 PM EDT

    SSC Napoli v PAOK - Preseason Friendly Getty Images

    Exciting attacker arrives at Loftus Road for the 2014-15 season.

  11. Luis Suarez not included in Uruguay’s squad for upcoming friendlies

    Aug 21, 2014, 1:51 PM EDT

    Uruguay's Luis Suarez kicks the ball during the group D World Cup soccer match against Italy at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. Uruguay defeated Italy 1-0. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan) AP

    Despite being eligible to play for his country, Suarez left off Uruguay’s roster.

  12. Sami Khedira rejects new contract at Real Madrid, alerts Arsenal, Chelsea

    Aug 21, 2014, 12:44 PM EDT

    sami_khedira Getty Images

    Khedira turns down new deal at Real. Will the Spaniards cash in on him now?

  13. Report: Xabi Alonso heading to Manchester United

    Aug 21, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT

    Spain v France - UEFA EURO 2012 Quarter Final Getty Images

    Former Liverpool star could be heading to United as Real Madrid seek to trim squad.

  14. Tottenham eye Champions League spot via Europa League title

    Aug 21, 2014, 11:16 AM EDT

    Mauricio Pochettino AP

    Spurs boss in dramatic U-turn on Europa League after previously dismissing tournament.

  15. Influential CEO Tim Leiweke to leave Toronto FC, MLSE

    Aug 21, 2014, 10:46 AM EDT

    Tim Leiweke, seen here at the announcement of the NBA's 2015 All-Star Game in Toronto, has taken two steps toward reversing the exodus out of BMO Field. (Source: AP.) AP

    Leiweke to leave MLSE, as leading sports executive calls it quits in Toronto.

  16. VIDEO: Watch LA Galaxy launch astonishing comeback, beat Colorado 4-3

    Aug 21, 2014, 10:05 AM EDT

    landon_donovan Getty Images

    After trailing 3-1, LA came roaring back to win 4-3 as Donovan bagged the winner.

  17. Angel Di Maria wants to leave Real Madrid, rejects new contract

    Aug 21, 2014, 9:25 AM EDT

    angel_di_maria Getty Images

    Di Maria wants out of Real, will Manchester United be able to pounce for his signature?

  18. Crystal Palace’s Sporting Director Iain Moody resigns after text scandal

    Aug 21, 2014, 8:54 AM EDT

    West Ham United v Crystal Palace - Premier League Getty Images

    Moody, pictured center, has resigned from his role at Palace following damaging allegations.

  19. Mario Balotelli edging closer to shock $26 million Liverpool switch

    Aug 21, 2014, 8:20 AM EDT

    Balotelli Getty Images

    Liverpool, AC Milan agree Balotelli transfer as player, agent set to arrive at Anfield.

  20. Thursday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Tiote to Arsenal, Destro to Chelsea

    Aug 21, 2014, 7:30 AM EDT

    Italy Soccer Serie A AP

    Monster moves rumored. Check out all the latest gossip, right here.

Featured video

Top five PL goals, Week 1