It's bizarre how a match involving Lionel Messi in this part of the world has people getting in well after kick-off. Nearly two years after it happened in Kolkata, people were dribbling through the narrow aisles of the Rajamangala National Stadium here where the scoreboard put official turnout for Wednesday evening's match between Barcelona and Thailand at 48,112.
Scoring all their goals by the 49th minute, Barcelona won 7-1 with Neymar getting his first goal for the team and of the match in the 13th, Messi scoring twice including a penalty in the 15th minute and Pedro getting three.
Thailand pulled one back through Teerasil Dangda's penalty but by half-time the score was 5-1. A large portion of the credit for that should go to Cesc Fabregas who provided the final pass for Neymar's goal and was the team's attacking engine, playing behind Messi, Neymar and Alexis Sanchez who completed the rout. And when coach Gerardo Martino brought on Xavi and Iniesta, Fabregas moved up the park playing behind Sanchez.
Maybe keeping Fabregas on long after Messi and Neymar — both of whom were taken off at half-time — was Martino's way of taking forward Barcelona director Andoni Zubizaretta's assertion that return to the Premier League won't happen this season.
The writer's trip was sponsored by Nike India