Barcelona have won their 19th consecutive home La Liga match as Alexis Sanchez’s brace fired them to a 4-1 victory over Rayo Vallecano at the Nou Camp.
The Catalan club were without the injured Lionel Messi and shockingly fell behind after ten minutes through Javi Guerra’s header following poor marking.
However, Sanchez’s double was added to by Xavi and Neymar to seal Barca’s win and make it eight wins from their opening eight league games this season.
With Messi out, the intrigue around the stadium was about who would step up to turn the show for the home team and Sanchez made it clear early on that he wanted that spot. The Chilean went on a mazy run in the eighth minute before pulling the ball back for Cesc Fabregas, but the former Arsenal midfielder blazed well over when he should have at least hit the target.
The away side knew that they must take their chances if they were to get anything out of the game and they took a shocking lead in the tenth minute. Guerra was left unmarked thanks to sloppy defending from Adriano and he rose highest to nod a corner past Victor Valdes from six yards out. The goal marked a third consecutive game that the defender has scored in, but it seemed to only anger the title favourites.
Marc Barta forced the Rayo goalkeeper, Diego Marino, into a good save with a long range effort before Sanchez scored to pull the home side level just four minutes after falling behind. The winger picked up Christian Tello and unleashed a powerful drive from 30 yards that flew past Marino on its’ way into the top corner. It was a terrific strike and Rayo’s chances in the game were seriously diminishing.
Neymar was the man many expected to be Barcelona’s main attacking threat and a good save from Marino meant the Brazilian didn’t have his side in front at half-time. Fabregas split the defence with a wonderful pass, but the summer signing from Santos was denied by the goalkeeper after shooting from a tight angle.
However, it took Barcelona just seven second half minutes to take the lead. Tello did well on the left wing to fizz in a low cross that could have been difficult to finish off from 15 yards, but Xavi showed immense composure with a first-time strike that beat the goalkeeper and nestled into the bottom corner.
Just six minutes after Xavi’s goal, Barcelona should have opened up a two-goal advantage but Tello was denied a stunning goal by the crossbar. The winger did well to come inside onto his favoured right foot before unleashing a powerful shot towards the top corner, but the swerving effort bounced back off the frame of the goal to the disappointment of the home fans.
Rayo hanging on by a thread and Barcelona killed the game off with a third goal after 64 minutes. Neymar picked out Sanchez’s run with a nice pass and the former Udinese man finished past the goalkeeper from eight yards with a tidy finish. It was a well-worked strike and Gerardo Martino will be pleased with his attackers working together so smoothly.
The game was over and Barca managed to take their foot off the gas without any repercussions. They even managed to grab one more goal before the end and it was their newest headline name that completed the scoring. Xavi’s nice touch allowed Sanchez space in the penalty area, but instead of firing in for his hat-trick, the winger unselfishly played the ball across for Neymar to tap in and seal a good win for the reigning La Liga champions.
Match Report by Kyle Dixon (@kyledixon95)