Barcelona ended their season on a high note as a 4-1 victory over Malaga meant they reached 100 points in La Liga and equaled the record set by rivals Real Madrid last season. It was a match that also saw an emotional farewell to the Camp Nou for Eric Abidal, while Manuel Pellegrini took charge of Malaga for the final time.
But Barcelona began like a side that were fully focused on finishing off a mixed season with a win as David Villa, Cesc Fabregas and Martin Montoya put the Blaugrana 3-0 up inside 16 minutes. Andres Iniesta added a fourth after the break and, although Pedro Morales pulled one back shortly after it was never going to be any more than a consolation.
The result means that Barcelona also matched the record number of wins in a La Liga season with 32. Yet, for all their league success, it is the drubbing they received at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinals that for many will live longest in the memory. Preparations are already underway to restore their dominance next season with Neymar set to be unveiled at the Camp Nou on Monday.
There are likely to be several departures too. And it was one of the players most likely to leave that got the ball rolling on Saturday. Villa, despite having failed to hold down a regular place since returning from a broken leg this season, is unlikely to be short of options should he leave. And Spain’s record goal-scorer was in the right place at the right time after just three minutes to tap Pedro’s layoff into a largely unguarded net following a delightful pass from Iniesta.
The midfield marvel was heavily involved again as Barcelona made it 2-0 in the 14th minute. Iniesta exchanged passes with another man linked with a summer departure, Fabregas, and the former Arsenal midfielder took the ball into the box before dispatching it stylishly into the top corner. Two minutes later a third goal arrived from an unlikely source. After a corner was headed clear to the edge of the box, young right-back Montoya met it with a crashing half-volley past Willy Caballero.
The star of the show was Iniesta, though, and seven minutes into the second half he scored a superb fourth. Malaga allowed the World Cup hero far too much space 30 yards from goal and Iniesta drifted forward and, making it look so easy, curled a fine shot over the forlorn Caballero.
Morales and Isco had missed earlier chances to get Malaga on the scoresheet, but they did pull a goal back in the 56h minute. Jesus Gamez supplied a near-post cross and Morales met it with an emphatic volley high past Jose Pinto at his near post.
From then on the action on the field largely petered out as attention was drawn by substitutions. Abidal came on to a thunderous reception, while Villa also exited to a loud ovation from the Camp Nou faithful.