The hype and expectation surrounding the build up to this game was huge, but Barcelona and Malaga did not disappoint, producing a fantastic feast of football. Barcelona’s relentless passing game finally wore down the resistance of Malaga, but the result was in doubt right until the last 10 minutes.
Barcelona now face Real Madrid three times in a month. The first leg of the semi-final will be played next Wednesday at the Bernabeu. The second leg will not be played until the end of February, followed that weekend by the Primera Liga game in Madrid. Madrid will host Barca next week without Casillas, Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Coentrao and Di Maria. It is hard enough playing Barca with three of your best defenders missing, but when your keeper is out as well that is a nightmare.
Malaga were excellent last night, as was the atmosphere produced by the Andalusian crowd. Barcelona were probing and playing fast and intricate passes, but Malaga were harrying and when they got the ball, their attacks were fast, fluent and dangerous. When Dani Alves picked a perfect ball for Pedro to head the opener, Malaga did not falter but got back on terms four minutes later with a sweeping move finished brilliantly by Joaquin. The rest of the half was a fierce and frantic battle but no more goals came.
Pique was the surprise player to pop up in the box to score Barca’s second after 48 minutes, which he dedicated to his new first born son, Milan. It took 20 minutes before Malaga scored this time, and Barca had chances to stretch the lead, but were pegged back by a great strike from Roque Santa Cruz.
Barca, however, had settled into a brilliant passing rhythm and Malaga were chasing shadows. Two fantastically worked goals, typical of Barcelona were scored by Iniesta and Messi in the space of four minutes, and the tie was over. Messi was removed as a precaution but the club have declared that he is fine. Highlights below.