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Magic Messi seals high-tension derby

SPORTYOU SPORTYOU 07/01/2016 sportyou
Portentoso Leo Messi en otro derbi de altísima tensión © Getty Images Portentoso Leo Messi en otro derbi de altísima tensión

Barcelona saw off Espanyol 4-1 in the first leg of the last 16 of the Copa del Rey, thanks to Iniesta's magic but, above all, because of the difference that Leo Messi makes. The Argentinean scored his team's first two goals, that overturned Caicedo's early opener, and Piqué and Neymar's good aim in the second half did the rest. More than football, the talk is surely going to be about the hot tempers that flared on the pitch. All eyes were on the debuting Arda Turan to see how well he was fitting into Luis Enrique's machinery, when Dani Alves lost a ball to Marco Asensio who surged past the Barcelona defence and fed Caicedo an excellent pass for the Ecuatorian to open the scoring. Espanyol had taken the lead, in the away match, which was a perfect scenario for them. Their joy was short-lived, however, because Messi, who had failed to score in a one-on-one previously, rarely misses his second chance. He pounced when Espanyol's offside trap failed and Iniesta, reading the situation perfectly, played a precise ball for the Argentinean to finish.

Espanyol made life uncomfortable for Barça with the high pressing game Galca had ordered and the hosts had a difficult time in the early stages of the match, having to play a long-ball game, coming out rapidly from the back. Neymar, though, started to worry the visitors with his bursting runs up the pitch and, in one of them, Javi López kicked him from behind, in the area, but Martínez Munuera did not call the clear penalty.

Between the magic of Iniesta, Neymar's bursting runs and the squabbles that were breaking out all over the pitch in a derby that started already at boiling point after Saturday's league match, the figure of Messi started to emerge again. The Argentinean pulled another wondergoal out of the hat from a free kick that thumped against the underside of the bar, bounced on the line and went back up into the top of the net. A superb goal, one of the best seen this season. The skirmishes were still going on, but now Barça were ahead.

Early in the second half, Arda showed a little of his sparkle for the first time in the azulgrana shirt, in the form of a nutmeg, but then, a magnificent combination between Iniesta and Messi ended in a spectacular pass from the star for Piqué to push the ball into an empty net. Barça were now beginning to have fun and the crowd chanted 'olé' as they shifted the ball around while Espanyol were just chasing shadows.

Pau López committed the ugliest offence of the game, treading on Messi's ankle when he was on the ground, an action that would have been a penalty and a red card for the Espanyol 'keeper had the referee seen it. Neither team made it easy for Martínez Munuera. In the flurry of cards, Hernán Pérez saw a second yellow in the 72nd minute and went off for an early bath. Two minutes later, the referee sent off Pape Diop for something he said to Luis Suárez, who had earlier told him to shut up.

Straight after that, Neymar decided to do a little showboating and flick the ball over his head, which incensed the Espanyol players. The game then just spiralled downwards into endless squabbles and face-offs, everything that a derby should not be. Neymar culminated the thrashing, finishing off another fantastic move. The tie looks to be done and dusted, but another heated clash awaits on Espanyol's turf.

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