A hat-trick from Cesc Fabregas and a double from Alexis Sanchez saw a makeshift Barcelona side thump struggling Mallorca 5-0 and restore their 13-point lead at the top of La Liga.
Lionel Messi missed out by virtue of a hamstring injury picked up in the Champions League draw with Paris Saint-Germain during the week and Barca boss Tito Vilanova also left out David Villa and Xavi as they prepare for next week’s second leg.
Barca had watched as second-placed rivals Real Madrid put five past Levante, but with just 12 points needed from eight games to take the league crown from Madrid it appears a question of when rather than if for Vilanova’s side.
An open start saw both sides threaten early on but Fabregas opened the scoring after 20 minutes, slotting past Duda Aouate after a neat through ball from Sanchez.
And Fabregas returned the favour minutes later when Sanchez tucked home the rebound after the former Arsenal midfielder had forced Aouate into a save.
Barcelona continued to look dangerous as the first half wore on, with Christian Tello providing an effective outlet for his side and giving Mallorca’s on loan Aston Villa full-back Alan Hutton plenty to think about.
If the match wasn’t already over it was when Fabregas netted his second and Barca’s third, calmly finishing past the Mallorca keeper after another good example of exchange play with Sanchez.
Once again the routine was reversed just minutes later when Fabregas played an inch-perfect ball over the top of the Mallorca backline, allowing Sanchez to control and poke into the net.
Fabregas completed the scoring and his first ever hat-trick just a minute into the second half, showing composure in the box again to side-foot home after a clever pass by Andres Iniesta.
Mallorca found the net from a corner after 53 minutes but the linesman ruled the effort out for offside, although replays proved inconclusive.
Gerard Pique came close to adding his name to the scoresheet just after the hour mark after surging from back to front, but he nodded his header over the bar from Tello’s flighted cross
Eric Abidal was introduced to the game to a rousing Camp Nou reception as the Frenchman made his first appearance for the club in a year after his battle with cancer, completing an uplifting evening for the Spanish champions-elect.
- Sports & Recreation
- Cesc Fabregas
- Alexis Sanchez
- Tito Vilanova