La Liga: Celta Vigo 0-3 FC Barcelona: Match Review

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno

A recap of Barcelona's comfortable 3-0 win over Luis Enrique's Celta Vigo as the Blaugrana secured their tenth win of the La Liga season in style

FC Barcelona coasted to their tenth win of the La Liga season on Tuesday evening in Galicia, comfortably defeating Luis Enrique’s Celta Vigo 3-0 in front of a packed crowd at Balaidos. Despite being forced to weather an early storm of Celta pressure, the Blaugrana held firm before seizing the initiative, as goals from Alexis Sánchez, Cesc Fàbregas and Yoel (OG) gifted Gerardo Martino’s team yet another victory along with a valuable clean sheet.

Celta Vigo

Barcelona

Possession

40%

60%

Total Shots

12

20

Shots on Target

4

8

Pass Accuracy

79%

87%

Fouls

17

12

Offsides

2

3

Yellow Cards

3

1

Red Cards

0

0

Gerardo Martino made five changes to the team that started Saturday’s El Clasico win over Real Madrid, as Gerard Piqué, Javier Mascherano, Xavi, Andrés Iniesta and Neymar all dropped out of the line-up, allowing Carles Puyol, Marc Bartra, Alex Song, Pedro and the scorer of Saturday’s superb winner, Alexis Sánchez to start for the Blaugrana. In some respects, it was an experimental selection from Tata Martino. Would his gamble pay off?

As expected after their emphatic weekend win over Malaga, Celta Vigo started the match strongly, pressing the visiting Blaugrana right from the opening whistle, attempting to grab an early goal while they still had some momentum. After all, Luis Enrique is no fool – he knew that his side were soon going to be starved of possession, and that his defense almost certainly wasn’t strong enough to keep the rampant Barça attack at bay. So, while it was the Celta right-back Hugo Mallo who attempted the first shot of the game, it was Barcelona who created the first real chance, capitalising on some woeful play from Gustavo Cabral to regain possession in the Celta half and spring the offside trap, releasing Cesc Fàbregas down the left flank.

Already clear of the retreating Hugo Mallo, Fàbregas slowed his approach, hesitating before the inevitable finish – or at least that’s how it appeared as Cesc dropped his shoulder and opened up his body, only to see his tame effort saved by Yoel. It was a fine stop from the Spanish keeper, but not quite good enough, as in-form Chilean striker Alexis Sánchez pounced on the rebound to claim his sixth goal of the season.

After weathering the early storm, Barcelona had put themselves into a lead and soon set their sights on extending that slender advantage, hoping to end this match as a contest well before the half-time break. And they very nearly succeeded too; Cesc Fàbregas again looked to have sprung the offside trap, this time with a well-timed through ball to Lionel Messi – only for the assistant referee to flag for offside. It was a tight call, although replays seemed to suggest that Messi had timed his run to perfection.

Not to worry though; Barcelona were creating chances almost at will – even Pedro’s over-hit cross nearly led to a goal as once again, Alexis Sánchez tested the keeper with a fine header from a tight angle.

That being said, while Barcelona were creating numerous chances, they were struggling to convert. Lionel Messi saw a couple of his first-half efforts blocked by the Celta defense and witnessed another fizz just wide of the far post following a trademark dribble. Even if they were under pressure, Celta Vigo were still in this match and proceeded to remind the visiting Blaugrana of that with a decent spell of pressure around the half-hour mark. Charles registered his first shot on target with a snap shot against Valdés, while Barça loanee Rafinha Alcântara came within inches of levelling the score with a fearsome long-range effort.

Then came controversy as the Galicians put the ball in the back of the net – only for the referee David Fernandez Borbalan to whistle for a foul on Victor Valdés. Some may suggest that goalkeepers are over-protected in this modern age, but replays demonstrated that Valdés was clearly impeded by Charles.

In the aftermath of that challenge, Cesc Fàbregas picked up a needless yellow card for dissent – his fifth in all competitions – and Adriano Correia checked out of the game, grimacing and clutching at the back of his leg as he was replaced by Martin Montoya.

The remainder of the half threatened to pass without any real incident, before a flurry of "chances" in the dying moments of the half – two of which fell to Lionel Messi, who once again watched on in frustration as his shot was blocked by a sea of sky blue Celta shirts. Would he put his name back on the scoresheet in the second half, or would Lucho inspire his side to a memorable comeback?

Certainly Enrique would have been hoping that his half-time team talk made some sort of an impact, but unfortunately for him and for the packed crowd at Balaidos, Barcelona were not going to make things easy. In fact, they too were hoping for a positive start to the second period – and they had the quality to follow through. Lionel Messi combined with Alex Song, who looked suitably out of place following his return pass, and looked almost bemused when Messi directed a pass right back at him – so bemused in fact that he couldn’t control the pass, which rolled kindly to Cesc Fàbregas.

Maybe Cesc was Messi’s intended target all along? It worked out well enough anyway as Fàbregas let rip from long-range, rattling the crossbar with a sublime curling effort. Fàbregas’ devastation was short-lived; the ball rebounded off the frame of the goal, into the back of the sprawling Yoel and trickled over the line. In bizarre and almost comical fashion, Barça had extended their lead.

A little over five minutes later, Fàbregas finally got his reward for an impressive midfield performance, bursting clear of the defense after yet another jaw-dropping pass from Lionel Messi to fire past Yoel at the near post. With a three goal cushion, Barça had all but secured the three points and could look towards Friday’s Catalan derby with city rivals, RCD Espanyol.

Fàbregas was the first to make way in this second-half, giving Andrés Iniesta a 20 minute run-out after his outstanding performance in Saturday’s Clasico. While he was yet to manage a goal of his own, Messi continued to selflessly create chances for others – this time feeding Pedro, who struck the bar with a left-footed effort from just inside the Celta penalty area.

The Argentine then opted to go it alone in the 80th minute, ignoring Pedro’s supporting run to dribble past the Celta defense alone before testing Yoel’s shot-stopping with a swerving effort. A square pass to Pedro would have almost certainly led to a fourth goal – but who can really blame Messi for going it alone, particularly with the result already secure?

Cristian Tello was readied and brought on for the final seven minutes of regulation time, replacing potential Man of the Match candidate Alexis Sánchez to earn some rare playing time on the left-hand side of Barça’s attacking triumvirate.

Next up, FC Barcelona return to the Camp Nou on Friday when they will face city rivals, RCD Espanyol in the Catalan derby. Until then, Visca el Barça!

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