Sports Desk: If there is one team in the world who did not need to sign a new £145million attacking player this month it was Barcelona.
There is no doubt that Philippe Coutinho, who watched this exhibition from the main stand, will blend in just fine. But without him, and with their other £100m player Ousmane Dembele starting on the bench Barcelona put four goals past Celta Vigo in a mesmerizing first half.
Coutinho could be seen smiling broadly from his seat in the directors’ box. He will soon be smiling on the pitch – it’s going to be fun out there zipping in between the flicks and tricks of Luis Suarez and Leo Messi and the darting runs of Jordi Alba.
Some will say this was just another case of Barça bullying another lightweight victim sent out onto the Nou Camp playground to sink or swim. But Celta were Europa League semi-finalists last season and they have already draw against Barcelona in the league at the Camp Nou this season as well as taken a point off of Real Madrid.
They came into the game having drawn the first leg 1-1 – there was reasonable expectation that they could make a real cup-tie of it but instead it was all over in 35 minutes.
The first goal came down the left with Suarez nudging the ball out to Jordi Alba and the Spain defender crossing for Messi to finish. No one has given more passes to goal for Messi this season and Alba repeated the trick with Barcelona’s next attack.
How many times do you see a Messi goal and then realize when you see the replay that not only did he finish the move, he started it too? It was his ball out to Alba; he continued his run and from the left-back’s return he made it 2-0.
Suarez looked onside when he curled in what would have been the third but the linesman saw it differently and the difference stayed at two. Sergio Alvarez then prevented a rare Andres Iniesta goal tipping over his shot from the edge of the area.
When Celta did get the chance to hit back Iago Aspas took too long over his shot in the penalty area and saw it charged down. He had shared a joke in the tunnel with Suarez before the teams came out – two former Liverpool players who have very different memories of their time at Anfield.
Aspas is the top scoring Spaniard in Spain this season and heading for the World Cup in Russia. He is the leader of his team but he could do nothing about the way they had disappeared from this tie within in the first half an hour.
Messi and Suarez continued to take turns to tee each other up and Suarez sent a bicycle kick just wide. He would finally get on the score sheet on the half hour when Pione Sisto gifted him the ball with a bizarre past back into his own danger area.
That was Barça’s fourth because Jordi Alba added the third moments before. This time Messi provided for him. Celta looked seasick – rocked from side-to-side by Barcelona’s football. And what happened at half-time? Barcelona watered the end of the pitch they would be attacking in the second period and £135m Dembele warmed-up.
Some mercy was shown because when the French winger came on the hour it was Messi who made way – the very expensive replacing the priceless.
Dembele was soon running Celta ragged and the Camp Nou gave their new song about him its first airing – his name to the tune of 'La Marseillaise'. All of which will be great for his confidence after a difficult first four months.
Confidence is not something anyone else is short of right now. Suarez tried to score from 40 yards out with one shot and Rakitic went for the clever flick from Dembele’s cross when a simpler a finish might have brought the fifth.
He scored goal number five anyway, heading in Dembele’s corner with three minutes left.
risingbd/Dhaka/Jan 12, 2018/Nasim