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FC Barcelona vs. Celta de Vigo, 2-2

Messi won't look so happy after our defenders concede a second goal

Our starting line-up had just returned from international break, with scars to show for it. Pedro Rodriguez, Jordi Alba, and Xavi Hernandez joined Adriano Correia and Carles Puyol on the injured list, and many other players needed to be rested. Despite having played two full matches in a row, with reported vomiting during hafltime in high altitude La Paz on Tuesday, Lionel Messi started and even wore the captain's armband (at least until Andres Iniesta replaced Thiago Alcantara in the second half). With Jose Manuel Pinto in goal for the suspended Victor Valdes, Leo was leading the second string, notably Martin Montoya and Marc Bartra finally making appearances in defense, Alex Song subbing for Sergio Busquets, and Cristian Tello starting on the left wing.

The first half looked pretty grim, to be honest. Messi appeared to be conserving his energy and Alexis likewise had little influence on the game. Song played pretty well, but his midfield trio with Thiago and Cesc was no substitute for Busi-Xavi-Iniesta. Bartra was lucky not to earn a penalty for fouling Park Chu-Young in the box, and with our inexperienced defense in disarray, only Pinto's audacious saves kept the score 0-0 until the 38th minute, when Celta's Insa scored during a particularly embarrassing muddle. At that point, Messi appeared to perk up. Five minutes later he launched a beautiful attack by intercepting, spinning, and passing on to Tello for a gorgeous right-footed goal.

Tito must have been tempted to order substitutions at halftime, but it was not until Alexis had been booked for a nonexistent handball after controlling with his chest that he was taken off for Villa, with Iniesta coming on for a lackluster Thiago and reclaiming the captain's armband. But that didn't mean that Messi was getting a rest - five minutes later, he set up a second successful play, passing out to Tello, who crossed back to him with a perfect first touch for the goal. Messi has now scored consecutively against every team in La Liga, which must be some new kind of ridiculous record.

Unfortunately, that was not enough for a win. Busi finally came on for Cesc in the last ten minutes but only succeeded in making an error that caught the defense flat-footed, resulting in a second goal for Celta courtesy of Oubina. (This was not really a surprise since, with the exception of Montoya, the defense had been looking frighteningly fragile all night.) There was not enough time, imagination, and/or energy to retake the lead, and the match ended 2-2. (On the other hand, Real Madrid just drew Real Zaragoza 1-1, so Barcelona still have a 13 point lead in La Liga.)

The good news is that Eric Abidal is back on the bench after recovering from last year's liver transplant, while Tito Vilanova is finally back from New York and should be directing Tuesday's Champions League match against PSG. Now if only Pique, Cesc, and Alexis could find their form again, Barcelona might actually win it.



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