Barcelona, reeling after a shock defeat in La Liga on Saturday night, made a short trip to Germany to meet a side who currently reside 15 points off the top in Bundesliga. Leverkusen’s form has been patchy to say the least, ever since the Christmas break.
Barcelona started with a familiar side although Mascherano was playing slightly out of position at centre half; still, Leverkusen looked set to use a booming home crowd along with the addition of Corluka, the on-loan Spurs full back, to provide a solid basis on which to deal with the succinct style of Barcelona.
The first half was an eventful affair, Barcelona notching up 41 attacks to Leverkusen’s mere 7. The deadlock was broken by the lively Alexis Sanchez on 41 minutes.
The second half began ferociously, both sides opening up, leaving more gaps and having yet more chances. It was Leverkusen’s pressure that told, a slick move on the right wing allowed Corluka to deliver a pinpoint cross to meet Kadlec at the back post who headed past a despairing Valdes. It took 3 minutes for Barcelona to reply, a sharp pass found Sanchez once more, who duly rounded the keeper to slot one home.
Renato Augusto could have replied for Leverkusen immediately, but his powerful strike went straight into the grateful arms of Valdes. Leverkusen continued to look for the equaliser, often hitting the post in the process. However, they began to look leggy and Barcelona effortlessly retained possession.
When they get into this sort of zone their football becomes similar to chess, each little move culminates seamlessly into one grand play. Messi was his usual magician self, with Alves looking as lively in the 73rd minute as he did in the 1st. Barcelona had worn down a decent Leverkusen outfit into a dilapidated, defeated and demotivated set of individuals, as they do to so many of their unfortunate opponents. However Leverkusen were not going up without a fight, a chance for the substitute Keißling forced Valdes into a smart stop.
Having said that, Messi continued to create chances out of nothing and Barcelona looked to be cruising to victory. And indeed they were; with Messi adding a 3rd to the tally, his efforts all but guaranteeing the Catalan side’s place in the next round.