image credit: AFP/Getty, AP, Reuters, EFE, LV/César Rangel, ESPNsoccernet, Yahoo!Eurosport
(apologies for the crappy image quality)
(source) Barcelona continued their superb start to the season and signalled their intentions to reclaim the Primera Liga title with a stunning 5-2 victory at home to Atletico Madrid on Saturday night.
Pep Guardiola's side got off to the perfect start when summer signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic bagged his third goal in as many league starts after just two minutes at the Nou Camp.
Lionel Messi, who signed a new contract on Friday to remain at the club until 2016, then made it two after a quarter of an hour before a Dani Alves free-kick and a close-range Seydou Keita strike put the Catalans into a four-goal lead before half-time.
Sergio Aguero pulled a goal back for the visitors on the stroke of half-time and Diego Forlan added a second for Abel Resino's side late on.
But Barcelona's win was never in doubt and Messi grabbed a fifth deep into added time for the Catalans, who moved clear at the top of the table, at least until tomorrow's results, after preserving their 100% record in some style.
Guardiola's side had won both of their previous league matches before this one to top the league on goal difference ahead of this match.
But Atletico, who have been a difficult opponent for the Catalans in recent years, came into this match with only a point to their name following a desperately disappointing start to the campaign.
Barca coach Guardiola claimed he was wary of a wounded Atletico outfit in the build-up to this match, but he need not have worried as his side quickly took control of the game.
After Thierry Henry had rattled the woodwork, Ibrahimovic found the net moments later when he was put through by Sergio Busquets and clipped an exquisite finish past Atletico keeper Roberto Jimenez with the outside of his boot.
Ibrahimovic and Messi then both came close to a second goal for the Catalans.
But they did not have to wait long as Xavi put through Messi after 16 minutes and the Argentina winger left Roberto on the floor with a clever dummy before rolling the ball into an empty net.
Maxi Rodriguez was looking lively for Atletico at the other end, but the visitors were seeing little of the ball and found themselves three down after half an hour, when Dani Alves drove a brilliant, low free-kick into the far corner.
Keita then added a fourth with a simple finish after Messi had left Pablo and Luis Perea in his wake with a mesmerising piece of skill in the area.
Aguero grabbed a consolation on the stroke of half-time, when he pounced on a misplaced Busquets pass and raced clear to fire past Victor Valdes with consummate ease.
But there was no hint of an Atletico comeback as Barca continued to boss possession after the break.
Messi almost added a fifth 10 minutes after the break and the Argentina winger also appealed for a penalty as the Catalans continued to dominate.
There was less urgency now, though, and Guardiola's side were content to stroke the ball around against an opponent now focused solely on damage limitation.
There was a huge cheer for Andres Iniesta as the midfielder came on for Xavi after 64 minutes to make his first Nou Camp appearance this season, having missed the whole of pre-season and the opening matches of the campaign through injury after starring in Barca's treble exploits last term.
Rafa Marquez made his comeback from injury late on as well.
But the Mexican could do nothing about Forlan's strike to pull another goal back for Atletico.
Summer signing Dmytro Chygrynskiy allowed Forlan to shoot from the edge of the box and the Uruguay striker lashed home a stinging drive to give the visitors a faint hope with six minutes still remaining.
Jose Manuel Jurado then tested Valdes, but there was no time left for Atletico now and Barca wrapped up another impressive victory deep into added time, when Messi bagged his second of the night with a precise angled drive following neat approach play from Alves and Iniesta.
El Mister: "It was quite an odd game. It's just the way they play and we play, we both just go for it and take risks, that's what makes these games the way they are. It's fantastic for the fans, though maybe not quite so much for the managers!"
"We didn't have the game completely under control. The players came out very fired up and maybe that meant we were a bit too rushed at times. That's something we need to work on a bit more. It was a bit end-to-end, particularly in the first half, but we were the stronger and more committed and that strength won us the game."
"All three forwards helped out a lot in defence too. The win was very much down to them. Their defensive efforts,particularly Henry and Ibra, were an immense help to us."
[About Ibra] "He showed brilliant movement throughout, but the team didn't always find him. I said this would be a process of settling in that would take time, but with every game he's fitting in better with the rest of the team."
The rest is Google translated. That's why some of it may not make much sense. lol
Xavi: "This is repainted nicely. We are almost the same system and have much to hand."
"The Barca-Atletico are always open and the team felt comfortable from the start. We played good football, especially in the first half."
"It was not easy. Atlético play well and have good players."
"We believe we are in a line of play and results. We have a great squad and we have to continue to enjoy."
Dani Alves: "We played a great game. In the second half we pressed the brakes and we paid a little. "
"In the absence of the goal, Xavi would be the focus and I've asked. Time has passed me and I gratefully dedicated."
"In conclusion I did a dance that's popular in Brazil. I told some friends that if I scored I would."
Iniesta: "The first half was very good and we made a good income. Then we had some lack of control, but we won three points against a difficult opponent."
"The effectiveness has been very high."
"The applause in the Camp Nou was a special moment. It is logical that comes slowly. I picked up the pace "
"As always when I play, I go with a good taste in my mouth."
Messi: "I'm happy with the renewal and the game."
"Atletico Madrid are a team trying to play well and find more space. We came to play as equals."
In no particular order.
OH YEAH AND THERE'S THIS...