Match Reviews

Barcelona 2-2 Celta Vigo, 2017 La Liga: Match Review

Barcelona extended their unbeaten run to start to the season, but they dropped two points against a spirited Celta Vigo side that did their best to frustrate Barcelona. But the ultimate frustration came from Barcelona players themselves who missed numerous chances from excellent scoring positions. Celta Vigo took the lead through Iago Aspas, but Barcelona came back through goals from Lionel Messi and Luis Saurez, only to see Maxi Gomez equalize midway through the second half.

In the very first minute of the game Luis Suarez got tangled up with former La Masia graduate Sergi Gomez, resulting in a yellow card for Suarez and a shoulder/collarbone injury for Gomez. Gomez was quickly replaced by Gustavo Cabral. Both sides looked to attack early, with Celta threatening from a cross from a free kick, while Barcelona looked to break on the counter from that same Celta free kick, but after a very long run Lionel Messi couldn’t find the target.

Despite some recent lopsided results between the two sides, Celta have always been a difficult opponent for Barcelona, and the early stages of the game proved that that would be the case once again. Barcelona, while seeing more of the ball than Celta, couldn’t assert their play. Celta were looking to catch Barcelona high up the pitch and they were always on the lookout to start a quick break. The host did a good job though in stopping those counters before Marc-Andre ter Stegen would get called into action.

Until the 20th minute that is when Celta made Barcelona pay for a defensive breakdown. Aspas was played through down the right wing and had Gomez in support with no Barcelona defender in sight. Going alone on ter Stegen, Aspas chose to pass the ball across to Gomez who fired first time, but ter Stegen made a stunning save. The rebound, however, fell back to Aspas who was able to slot the ball into the empty net.

But Barcelona replied almost instantly. Aspas’ goal seemed to wake up Barcelona and the Catalans suddenly looked like a different team. From the ensuing kickoff the hosts went on a long attack that featured some nice, crisp passing that reached climax when Paulinho was searching for Luis Suarez but instead found Messi behind Suarez, who couldn’t control the ball. Messi was calm and collected and sent the shot through the legs of Ruben Blanco to quickly tie the game.

Barcelona seemed to take the lead just three minutes later through Suarez after a gorgeous pass from Messi, but the linesman raised his flag for offside. However, replays showed that Jozabed, who stood teen feet from the linesman, was clearly closer to Blanco than Suarez. Suarez would have two more chance just five minutes later, however, he couldn’t get the shot off on the first one while his second was blocked. But Barcelona, Messi to be exact, would get a chance off the rebound from the blocked shot, but from a tough angle all Messi could do was hit the post.

Barcelona continued to attack, almost completely shutting down Celta in the process. In the 36th minute Paulinho had a golden opportunity to put Barcelona in the lead after an inch perfect cross from Ivan Rakitić. Paulinho headed on goal, but the shot went too close to the keeper and Blanco was able to make the save. Barcelona would score in the 39th minute with Messi beating Blanco with an audacious lob, but again from an offside position, however, this time the call was correct.

Toward the end of the half Celta would threaten a couple times on the counter attack, but the visitors couldn’t trouble ter Stegen. Barcelona also launched a promising attack in the dying moments of the half, but the two sides went into the break tied at one.

Barcelona looked to quickly take the lead after the restart, and just two minutes in Paulinho had another fantastic chance to put his team up, but his aim disappointed him once again. Paulinho was set up by Messi and after a couple good touches to get past two defenders and make his way around the goalkeeper, the Brazilian made a mess of the finish, sending the ball wide of the empty net.

Unlike in most matches, Ernesto Valverde was quick to turn to his bench in this one. Denis Suarez replaced Andres Iniesta in the 53rd minute.

Neither side create much over the next few minutes, but then, in the 62nd minute, Messi struck again, though for his contributions he won’t get credited neither a goal nor assist, but it was his pass that carved up Celta’s defense. Messi played Alba through after Pione Sisto fell asleep in defense, playing Alba onside. Alba one-touched a pass to Suarez in the middle who tapped the ball in to deservedly put Barcelona in the lead.

Just two minutes later the lead could’ve been double, but Blanco made a brilliant diving save. Barcelona were attacking down the right side and the cross was floated in from near the goal-line by Denis. There, in the danger area, Messi rose the highest and powered a header on goal, but he was denied by the young Spaniard in goal.

Barcelona received a double blow in the 70th minute. Celta went on a quick counter, with Samuel Umtiti looking to defend Aspas. But after gaining position on Aspas, Umtiti pulled up, holding his right hamstring. Aspas continued to attack and found Gomez in the middle for the easy goal to equalize at two. Moments later Thomas Vermaelen replaced Umtiti.

The Catalans had to go back on the offensive. Celta were vulnerable, but Barcelona were far from clinical in front of the net. In the 72nd minute, Paulinho missed another opportunity, though arguably the toughest one, but the shot still came from a good spot, but went over the crossbar. Three minutes later, Barcelona missed another sitter. Messi sprung Pique after a lovely combo after a deep free kick. One-on-one with Blanco, Pique skipped past the goalkeeper, but like Paulinho earlier in the half, he too missed the wide open net.

In an effort not to draw consecutive La Liga games and go two games in a row without a win for the first time in La Liga this season, Valverde brought on Paco Alcacer for Rakitić. Time was running out for Barcelona however, and the visitors were doing their very best to take their time whenever possible.

Barcelona launched a very promising attack in the 85th minute, with Suarez creating a chance for Denis. Denis’ shot was blocked, but it turned into an assist for Messi, but even the Argentine missed the net from up close. Celta then quickly launched a counter, after a Denis turnover deep, but ter Stegen made a fantastic save on Sisto.

Five minutes were added on, but most of it was spent by Celta wasting time. The visitors picked up a couple yellow cards for time-wasting in the late stages of the game, but that was a small price to pay for the visitors for the point they stole from the Camp Nou. Barcelona did have a good chance in the 93rd minute, with Alcacer getting on the receiving end of a cross, but his header sailed high over the bar. Another chance came in the final seconds of the game, but Messi’s free kick hit the wall and Barcelona dropped two more points.

Unlike the previous weekend, when Barcelona were robbed by the referees, they can only blame themselves today – even if a goal was taken back for an offside that wasn’t. Barcelona had chance upon chance to score the third goal and secure the three points, but one after another, Barcelona players were missing wide open nets. Historically, Barcelona have always struggled in early kickoffs, but they didn’t necessarily struggle today. They just couldn’t score when it mattered the most.

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