x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Lionel Messi leads the line as Barcelona hit six

Six different scorers for the Primera Liga leaders as Getafe are thrashed in early kick off.

Barcelona celebrate during their 6-1 win over Getafe.
Barcelona celebrate during their 6-1 win over Getafe.

Barcelona had not kicked off at noon for 47 years until Sunday's league game against 12th-placed Getafe.

Any fears that the early start or the midweek long-haul exertions of their players on international duty would have an effect were brushed away after five minutes when they took the lead.

They were two up after 12 minutes, a score which, despite Barca's dominance, stayed the same until nearly 15 minutes into the second half.

Since 2011, one Primera Liga game starts at midday on Sunday each weekend, a move to appease the Asian market following the success of English Premier League games with early kick offs.

Spaniards joke that only mad dogs and Englishmen usually venture out in the midday sun, but over 80,000 Catalans sat in the largely uncovered Camp Nou, with fans in one end of the stadium shielding their eyes from the bright winter sun. The early kick-off times are not universally popular, but novelty value saw fans packing the city's underground system during an hour when they are usually in bed or at church.

"It's better for us, we can bring the kids," said fan Antoni Costa, 46, who had brought his two boys, aged 10 and 12.

"Many games kick-off too late in Spain. We can't bring the kids when games start at 10pm, we wouldn't get home until one in the morning. That's impossible with school the next day."

The enthusiasm of youth was tangible inside Camp Nou.

With coach Tito Vilanova still in New York receiving treatment for a tumour, Jordi Roura took charge on the league leaders' bench. Barca will send senior staff to see Vilanova this week, until then the management pair are in constant contact, with Vilanova watching every training session on a video link-up.

They decided on benching key players Daniel Alves, Cesc Fabregas, Javier Mascherano, Xavi and Sergio Busquets, all of whom had played midweek. For their midweek friendly against Uruguay in Qatar, Spain had started seven Barcelona players, with David Villa and Gerard Pique coming off the bench.

Both began against a Getafe side who had not won in seven before last weekend's victory over bottom club Deportivo, while Alex Song enjoyed a first start since November.

Barca have been accused of not rotating their squad enough, resulting in tired, faltering performances in recent weeks. While the changes may have been significant, they made little difference to the predictable outcome. Barca went ahead when Alexis Sanchez guided a through ball past Getafe keeper Codina for his first league goal of the season. The Chilean scored twice against Getafe last term, but he has suffered from indifferent form recently, missing several chances and admitting that he is nervous.

Barca's second came after Andres Iniesta's pass found Thiago Alcantara on the edge of the box. He controlled the ball for Lionel Messi to side-foot in from six yards for his 35th league goal of the season and 298th for Barcelona.

The Argentine almost made it 36 after as many minutes when he volleyed against the post from a Sanchez cross, but Barca's third did not go in until the 58th minute, when Jordi Alba played a ball behind defender Miguel Torres for Villa. The Asturian timed his run immaculately and slid in his 6th league goal of the season.

Substitute Christian Tello, who has not featured as much this season as last, made it four after 78 minutes when he received a ball from Messi on the edge of the area and struck a precise shot to make it 4-0.

That signalled the start of a Mexican wave around the three tiers of the stadium, which was brought to a temporary halt when Alvaro Vazquez capitalised on a mistake by Jordi Alba, whose eyes appeared to be dazzled by the sun, to score in the 78th minute. Barca beat Getafe by a 4-1 scoreline earlier this season, but the goals were not finished. Iniesta, playing his 200th league game for the club, added a fifth, created by Messi, in the 90th minute, Pique a sixth in the 92nd. It was the first time that six different goalscorers have scored in the same league game in Spain for 11 years.

Commenting the number of young fans, stand in coach Jordi Roura opined: "It was a great day for the fans today. The players, the whole team, were exceptional. Alexis was great, Song extraordinary."

A lift, then, for two players who have underwhelmed so far and a welcome lift which put an end to Barca's New Year mini-blip.

sports@thenational.ae