Barcelona 4 Tenerife 1
Back in the summer of 1987, a baby boy was born in Tenerife and named by his parents as Pedro Rodriguez Ledesma. Nearly twenty-three years later, at the beginning of a crucial forty five minutes of football, he strode onto the pitch at the historic Camp Nou charged with providing the attacking thrust for an off-colour Barca against the team representing the island of his birth. One of the most famous clubs in world football was battling to save its season by retaining the precious league title it had won at a canter. They needed a hero.
Barca didn’t need to put water on the pitch this time, though, as they had before their fateful recent clash with Inter Milan. The dark clouds that hung above the Camp Nou both ahead of and throughout their midweek meeting with Tenerife did it for them. And as the rain hurled down towards the rich green surface, Barca hurled themselves against the determined visitors rearguard in the early stages. The home side made two changes from the team that destroyed Villarreal at El Madrigal three days earlier, with Yaya Toure and Zlatan Ibrahimovic the star names brought in to replace Sergio Busquets and Pedro.
Despite predictable early pressure from the champions, Tenerife had the best chance of the opening ten minutes when Alejandro Alfaro, on loan from Barca’s next opponents Sevilla for a second consecutive season, fired over after Carles Puyol deflected the ball into his path. A former Sevilla player, the tireless Dani Alves, was next to go close with a cross-shot that narrowly eluded Lionel Messi at the front post and zipped across the face of goal.
Shortly after the quarter of an hour mark, Messi poked Barca ahead with a goal that owed much to both the marauding Alves and under-fire Ibrahimovic. The Brazilian lobbed a cross into the box with the outside of his right foot and the tall Swede did excellently to beat two white shirts to the high ball, nodding it down for the finest footballer in the world to expertly turn home from the tightest of angles.
It was not a typical Barcelona goal. In fact, it was more like the sort of goal that used to be commonplace back when little-and-large strike partnerships were in vogue. Nevertheless, it was a crucial early breakthrough for the Catalonians and more goals looked imminent as the Blaugrana dominated possession.
The first half was not classic Barca with both sets of players struggling to come to terms with the slippery conditions. Maxwell found himself clear through on goal, albeit at a narrow angle on the left side, but he produced neither a cross nor a shot and Ibrahimovic could not divert the loose ball towards an unguarded net.
With seven minutes until the interval, the islanders sparked celebrations both from their tiny travelling contingent and, of course, all those associated with Real Madrid. Puyol gave the ball away wastefully and a well-judged pass from Daniel Kome left Roman Martinez with just Valdes to beat for an unlikely equaliser. Pep Guardiola’s side had been sloppy throughout the first forty-five minutes, always leaving the threat of a Tenerife leveller.
Back in the summer of 1987, a baby boy was born in the Canaries and named by his parents as Pedro Rodriguez Ledesma. Nearly twenty-three years later, he strode onto the pitch at the historic Camp Nou charged with providing the attacking thrust for an off-colour Barca against the team representing the island of his birth. Gerard Pique, who had been limping in the latter stages of the first half, was the man replaced. One of the most famous names in world football were now battling to save their season by retaining the precious league title they had won at a canter.
Ahead of the previous weekend’s fixtures, many observers expected Real Madrid to dismiss Osasuna with ease and Barca to struggle away to Villarreal before swatting away Tenerife nonchalantly. Predictions this season have been fraught with danger though. Real laboured to a late home win over Jose Antonio Camacho’s plucky outfit after seeing Barca stroll to victory at El Madrigal. There was nothing nonchalant about Barca as they desperately a second goal against a side well-drilled by their coach Jose Luis Oltra.
When facing Barca, you can stop Xavi sometimes if you press in midfield and cut off his options. You can stop Ibrahimovic and Pedro and Iniesta and you can even stop Messi occasionally. Just don’t forget about the right-back. With just over an hour gone, Dani Alves roamed infield and flicked a brilliant through ball into the path of the vibrant Bojan to slam past Sergio Aragoneses. The relief around Catalonia was palpable.
Alves nearly supplied a third shortly after, slipping a measured pass for the substitute Pedro to race onto but Aragoneses flew out of his goal to narrow the Canary Islander’s angle and his shot dropped just wide. The 33-year-old Tenerife keeper then did well to turn away a goalbound Xavi free kick as Barca aimed to make the game safe.
Then the baby boy took centre stage. The visitors, needing points to stave off the threat of relegation, piled forward on the counter attack with a quarter of an hour remaining. A lone Barca player stood between Tenerife and the distinct possibility of a second equaliser. It was Pedro. The young attacker’s pace took him back into a crucial position and soon the ball was safely returned into the arms of Valdes.
Within seconds, Barca established that important two-goal cushion. Messi was allowed time in a central position thirty yards out to pick a pass for an advancing Barca player in the inside-right position. It was Pedro. The young attacker’s pace took him away from his marker and soon the ball was safely dispatched beyond the dive of Aragoneses.
There was still time for a fantastic fourth from Barca, yet again provided by Alves. Messi met the Brazilian’s superb cross with his trademark instant control and sent the ball into the corner of the net with the last kick of the game. It was the amazing Argentine’s forty-fourth goal of a season that surpasses superlatives.
The finishing line is now in sight for Barca after seeing off Tenerife and the pressure is heaped back onto Real Madrid, primarily due to the contribution of a certain young Canary Islander. Pedro Rodriguez is making a real name for himself.