Things went from bad to worse for Málaga in the second half of a tough game in a tough stadium. After suffering the bad luck of a 50/50 call going against them--and paying the ultimate price for it--in the first half, they had to go through the whole process again in the second half. At first, they came out admirably, ready to attack Barcelona and exploit their game with quick, incisive counters. Then, they were undone from the penalty spot.
This is to take nothing away from Barcelona, who played a very complete--albeit a bit aloof, seemingly uninterested game--and thoroughly beat Málaga. They rode their best player the whole night, and the little Argentine didn't disappoint (did you really think he wouldn't come through again?). Messi was the catalyst for all of Barcelona's offense tonight--and what a catalyst.
The penalty in the second half did not resemble the penalty in the first half at all. In the first half, Iniesta, slicing towards the area, was brought down on the edge of the box. The question was not whether it was a foul; the question was where was Andrés. The second penalty, the opposite was true. Messi, free on goal, was tackled by Duda in the box. Duda went to ground, but did manage to knock the ball away from Messi, who also fell down. Repetitions were unclear, and Málaga's players swarmed referee Turienzo Alvarez. It was another tough-luck call that broke against the andalusians.
From then on, it was pretty much all Barcelona--though Ruud Van Nistelrooy, coming on as a substitute for Rondón, almost scored on a beautiful cross that he knocked over the bar. Had it been 2007, that wouldn't have even been a question. Van Goal would have been celebrating and we'd all be staring wondering how it had gone in.
And, for good measure, Messi decided to finish things off. Málaga's defense, strong all night, allowed an inch of space for Andrés Iniesta, an the Man from Manchego (doesn't have that ring to it, does it?) sent a perfect (and I mean it) ball to Messi, who broke on keeper Kameni. Messi slipped past the Cameroonian, and tapped the ball in. 4-1, and that was pretty much it.
Now, all eyes turn to Bilbao to see whether Madrid will be able to finish off the Liga officially with a win tonight. It should be an interesting match, to say the least.