0-1, Gudjohnsen, min. 42
0-2, Gudjohnsen, min. 58
1-2, Víctor, min. 70
1-3, Iniesta, min. 85
1-4, Ezquerro, min. 91
FC Barcelona remained top of the table after convincingly beating Real Mallorca in the ONO Stadium on Sunday evening. Eidur Gudjohnsen score twice before Andrés Iniesta and Santi Ezquerro completed the victory.
After Sevilla's victory on Saturday evening, Barça needed a strong win to retain first place and they did enough to overcome their hosts. The opening half-hour produced little in the way of clear-cut chances, but Gudjohnsen was able to break the deadlock five minutes before the break and then netted soon after half-time to put the Blaugrana in control. Andrés Iniesta was able to add Barça's third after Víctor had reduced the arrears for Mallorca, and substitute Ezquerro hit the fourth in injury time. The absence of Samuel Eto'o and Leo Messi did not cause problems, while the appearance of Oleguer and Ezquerro ensured that they kept their match sharpness.
The opening 30 minutes of the encounter was poor as both sides became clogged down in midfield and failed to create any chances of note. Iniesta was looking strong in the middle, while Rafa Márquez was controlling things at the back and using his range of passes to move the game forward. Fernando Varela looked lively for Mallorca, although his crosses from the wing were met by a Barça head or Víctor Valdés' out-streched hands. Maxi López also kept himself busy but was given few chances to make his mark on the encounter.
Spartking into life
If the opening exchanges were uneventful, things livened up when Thiago Motta produced the first good opportunity as he conected with a Deco corner to send a powerful header goalwards only to see Toni Prats save on the line. Angelos Basinas then attempted a long-range drive that flew wide, before Juan Arango headed over from a corner as Mallorca enjoyed a brief spell of pressure.
After holding at one end, Barcelona moved into attack and opened the scoring with three minutes of the firsty half remaining. Ronaldinho picked possession up on the edge of a crowded penalty area and slotted a pass through to Deco. The Portuguese international showed no hesitation as he clipped the ball first-time to Gudjohnsen and the Icelander was able to dribble around the keeper and roll the ball into the net from close range.
Barça edged further in front 12 minutes into the second period and again it was that man Gudjohnsen who did the damage. This time Iniesta was the provider as he slotted a firm pass into the striker's path and after controlling the ball Gudjohnsen turned away from his marker and as Prats began to dive he clipped it into the far corner of the goal. The first substitute for the visitors arrived five minutes later when Gianluca Zambrotta replaced Carles Puyol, allowing the Catalan defender to move into the centre. Puyol came off the field clutching his shoulder having been clipped across the back by the outstreched leg of Maxi López early in the second period. Mallorca then reduced the deficit when Rafa Márquez gave up possession to Víctor who moved towards goal before slotting the ball under the approaching Valdés.
Two more before the end
In the final 15 minutes Mallorca looked to be growing in confidence, while Rijkaard looked to shake things up by replacing Gudjohnsen with Ezquerro as he looked ahead to the Champions League game in midweek. Xavi then came on for Ludovic Giuly and the home team introduced Diego Tristán as they went in search of an equaliser. Instead they received a set-back when Varela was sent off after being shown his second yellow card for a foul on Deco. Barça took advantage of their numerical superiority and added two more goals before the end. In minute 86, Ronaldinho looked to break through the defence only for the ball to fall to Iniesta and the midfielder rounded the keeper and slotted home. In the first minute of injury time Ronaldinho was the provider yet again as he lifted the ball across the area to Ezquerro and he volleyed in his first league goal of the campaign to wrap up the scoring.
In 21 visits to Mallorca, FC Barcelona have one nine times, tasted defeat on nine occasions and drawn three. Nevertheless, results in the last few years have been favourable to the Blaugrana as they have picked up all three points on their last four visits to the island (0-4, 1-3, 1-3 and 0-3).
FC Barcelona visit Real Mallorca on Sunday looking in reassert their authority in the league and prove that they can play despite the recent injuries to Leo Messi and Javier Saviola.
The match in the Ono Stadium (19:00, Barça TV) is one of reaffirmation, as the Blaugrana looked continue at the top of the table. Carles Puyol and Ludovic Giuly both assured ahead of the encounter that they can win despite the mounting injury list. If the team pick up all three points then it will send out a signal to the rest of the league and show that the team is still capable and the club has a squad that is strong enough and able to cope with any eventuality.
Options in the middle: If there is one are where Frank Rijkaard has several possibilities then it is midfield. After the return to action of Xavi and Edmílson and Andrés Iniesta being given the green light, the Dutch coach must now choose his central trio. Thiago Motta is also available after having his red card overturned on Friday, while Edmílson and even Rafa Márquez could play as the holding midfielder, althougth it is difficult to see any other permutation than that of Iniesta, Deco and Xavi.
Unknown opposition: If Barcelona play with their usual bran of attacking, possession-based football, how Mallorca will play could be a mystery. The Balearic Islanders might switch from the normal system, with Maxi López leading the front line, and push forward more and become bolder as they look to press Barça in the middle. Rijkaard has been scepitcal about this before the game, however. Juan Arango and Jordi are fixtures in the Mallorca team, while Ariel Ibagaza, Jankovic and Angelos Basinas are all set to play.
Not many goals: Gregorio Manzano's side have not seen many goals this season, both for or against. Mallorca lead the statistics with the least goals conceded as they have let in only, but they are also top of the board when it comes to goals scored, having found the net on just five occasions. They have also not scored more than one goal in any game. Barça on the other hand have scored three goals in every victory in the league this season.