El Guaje: Welcome Back! Barcelona 5-1 Real Sociedad
It’s the 61st minute, and the Camp Nou erupts into a phenomenal cheer. David Villa (El Guaje is Asturian for “The Kid”) is sent by the coaching staff to go and warm up. Villa salutes the fans near him as the Blaugrana faithful roar him on after spending 8 months on the sidelines since his broken Tibia in the Club World Cup in December.
Enter the 75th minute and Villa has his orders to strip down and replaces Pedro who had produced a good performance. The 30 year old sprinted onto the pitch and immediately made an impact. Villa looked a sprightly 10 years younger than his age suggests. His pace, vision, passing, consecutive back heels with Alba and Iniesta, and finish were spectacular to watch. The Asturian had looked most likely to add to the score sheet and he did just that on 84 minutes, striking a venomous left foot strike into the corner of the net giving Cladio Bravo in the Sociedad goal no chance, after excellent work from Andreas Iniesta.
It was the perfect comeback for David Villa, lively, on the score sheet, and three points to give Tito Vilanova his first win as Barca coach. I like David Villa for one simple reason, he is old school, everything about his playing style is exactly how it is written in the book, whether he plays as a centre forward or out wide. It’s official El Guaje is back!
Getting back to reality, the Barca performance tonight actually surprised me quite a lot. I wasn’t expecting such fluid fast pace passing in the first game of the season but it was all there. Jordi Alba flew down the left wing overlapping Tello and later Villa like a Bugatti Veyron. That combination of Tello and Alba is quite possibly the fastest combination I think I have ever seen. It was frighteningly quick!
Puyol rose well in the 4th minute to nod home a Xavi corner but Sociedad responded immediately with Estrada going close and then Castro punishing Dani Alves’s momentarily drop in concentration firing into the roof of the net to level for the Basques. It took just under 2 minutes for Lionel Messi to put the Catalans back in front after a typical Barcelona move and a little bit of luck with the ball bouncing of 2 defenders legs before Messi fired into the top corner. Messi quickly got his second latching onto a Tello scuffed cross that fell perfectly for the Argentine. It was 4 just before half time as Pedro slammed home a fine Tello cross, who was lively throughout the game. Leo twice came close to getting his first hat trick of the campaign but for some dogged Sociedad defending on both occasions. It wasn’t until the 84th minute then when Barca scored again with Villa netting and celebrating with his team mates revealing a T shirt saying “Impossible without you” and a picture of his wife and two daughters.
On Individual Performances, after the second Barca goal, Sociedad were very rarely in it, and the usual suspects of Barcelona steadied the ship. Pique was superb when he came on for Puyol making a rather notable important challenge to prevent Griezmann with a 1 v 1 opportunity, after the Frenchman had beaten Alba and Mascherano. Fabregas surprisingly played only 51 minutes but was bright playing in a second striker role behind Messi. The conductor of the first Catalan symphony of the campaign, Xavi, produced a typical Xavi performance. Cool, clean, crisp and prescise is a fair review on his performance. Messi was splendid to watch as always and so was his international team mate Mascherano.
The night belonged to the comeback kid David Villa, but for me it was the debutant, Jordi Alba, who was most deserving of the man of the match award in my opinion. A truly splendid performance from the former Valencia man.
So the reign of Vilnaova has begun and 3 points picked up at the first attempt. A few minor changes were visible with Cesc operating as a second if not a joint striker with Messi, and the passing was as quick as I have ever seen it by Barcelona. The outlet of two wingbacks in Jordi Alba and Dani Alves means that play can switch faster, and so attacking wingplay won’t be all on the right hand side. Nevertheless, this is where they can get caught out on the counter, which is why this season is a big season for Busquets in the pivote position. It may only be August, but Barcelona looked at the best in many departments this evening.