It was all coming apart for Pep Guardiola's Barcelona. The first 10 minutes of their (possibly) Liga-losing match against fourth place Málaga had resulted in almost no real offensive opportunities, and, for good measure, Málaga had hit the post on a brilliant foul from Duda in the 10th minute. Málaga was looking increasingly threatening on the counter attack, and Barcelona couldn't create any real offense to match the andalusian side's intensity.
Then, a mistake. Eliseu lost the ball on the left flank. Isaac Cuenca intercepted his pass and drove on goal, dropping the ball off to Pedro on the wing. The young Spaniard crossed it to Lionel Messi, who left it for Andrés Iniesta. The Spaniard dropped it back to the center, where it found the extra-wet head of one Carles Puyol. Alright, fine, I'm not sure it hit his head. I just wanted to say that. But it definitely hit something of his. And went in.
And, like that, Málaga was in the same hole that most sides tend to be in against Barcelona in the Nou Camp. But they gamely battled on. Barcelona's attack still wasn't creating the chances that they normally do, and Málaga were still hitting on the counter...but it seemed highly unlikely that they would do anything productive with their chances. When you hit the post on Barcelona, you're normally not getting another shot.
But they did. After a long counter attack, that left much of Málaga's attacking force up field, Gámez flipped a little banana pass (that's what it's called in Spain) into the area, where it met with Rondón's head. The striker nailed the ball into Pinto's (a starter tonight over Valdés) bottom corner. A brilliant strike.
Barcelona had the better of the possession for the rest of the half, but it was honestly hard to qualify which team had the best of the tactics. Málaga broke numerous times on the counter, creating really serious threats on Pinto's goal; Messi created Barcelona's main opportunities (isn't he awesome).
Finally, in the 34th minute, Barcelona got a little help. Messi fed the ball to Andrés Iniesta, who slalomed towards the goal; as he was about to enter the penalty area, he was taken down in mid-jump. The referee pointed to the spot. It was very unclear from replays (and that's being generous), whether the little Spaniard was actually in the area or not--it depends on your point of view, and was certainly a 50/50 call. Barcelona got it; Málaga didn't.
Leo Messi put the penalty away. I'm going to refrain from Barcelona/Real Madrid penalty ineptness jokes for now. But just imagine that I made them.
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