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La Liga: Celta Vigo 0-1 FC Barcelona: Match Review

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A recap of the latest tight encounter between FC Barcelona and Celta Vigo, as this time the Blaugrana avenged their earlier defeat

Alex Caparros/Getty Images

FC Barcelona had to dig deep, but eventually found a breakthrough against another spirited Celta Vigo display to escape the Estadio Municipal de Balaidos with three points courtesy of a solitary goal from Jeremy Mathieu. For an age, it appeared as though the match was going the same way as the earlier clash between the two sides at the Camp Nou. Celta Vigo were frustrating the Blaugrana, upsetting the status quo and had their chances to secure a victory. This time however, Barça’s quality shone through and a late winner from Mathieu sealed what could prove to be an important victory in this year’s title race.

Celta

Barcelona

Possession

38%

62%

Total Shots

7

12

Shots on Target

1

3

Corners

4

3

Fouls

26

12

Offsides

4

3

Yellow Cards

2

2

Red Cards

1

0


Luis Enrique made three changes to the side that defeated Real Madrid in El Clasico at the Camp Nou a fortnight ago, two of which were forced as Javier Mascherano and Jordi Alba dropped out of the side courtesy of suspension and injury respectively. In their place, Sergio Busquets made his return while Adriano Correia deputised at full-back. The only real change made by Enrique was in midfield as Rafinha Alcântara rotated into the team in place of Ivan Rakitić.

How would the Blaugrana react to returning from the international break, and squaring off against one of the few sides that have defeated them this season? We were about to find out at the Estadio Municipal de Balaidos, and after Real Madrid’s emphatic 9-1 win over Granada earlier in the afternoon, the world was eagerly awaiting Barça’s response.

***

Perhaps it was to be expected after the international break, but Barcelona started slowly and that was a worry for the watching Culés. Just as they did in the previous meeting in November, Celta grabbed the game by the throat in the early stages, pressing the out-of-rhythm Barça squad who had no answer for Celta’s intensity and enthusiasm. The hosts seemed to be more comfortable in possession, albeit marginally so, and when they went forward they appeared to attack with more intent.

The first chance of the game for example fell to the hosts; some tricky, intelligent play on the left-wing from Nolito had the Barça defense on the back foot, and he fed Joaquin Larrivey for a shot on goal. The Argentine of course grabbed the only goal the last time these two sides met, but this time Claudio Bravo was equal to his effort which was destined for the far corner of the net.

A wake-up call – as Barcelona responded by creating a chance of their own. Lionel Messi had shrugged off his recent foot injury to make his return for this match and showed no signs of a knock in this driving run, racing past a couple of Celta defenders with a fleet-footed dribble into the centre of the area. The angle was perfect for a shot on goal and we half-expected to see the back of the net rippling, only for Sergio Alvarez to spring to the rescue, palming the ball away with a strong right-hand.

The chance wasn’t gone – Neymar had a chance to bury the rebound but the bounce was unkind to the Brazilian who arrived off-balance and duly sliced the ball wide of the mark. That sequence, while it didn’t end on a goal, signalled the arrival of the league leaders to this encounter. At least, from this point onwards our play more closely resembled that which we had seen in our charge back to the top of La Liga and slowly but surely we were establishing our superiority over the hosts.

Andrés Iniesta had the better of Michael Krohn-Dehli who responded with a cynical pull-back earning the Dane the first yellow card of the match. Luis Suarez stung the palms of Alavarez with a fierce half-volley and yes, Celta were still in the match and giving as good as they got, but their bright moments were becoming less and less common.

Instead, their positives were coming at the defensive end as they continued to keep Barça way from goal, though in truth they were helped by some uncharacteristically poor control from Neymar who really struggled to make any kind of positive impact in the first period.

It was tight, it was tense and it was finely poised. Who knew which way this fascinating match would swing in the second-half?

***

Neither manager opted to make a change at the break and wisely so. For Celta Vigo, what reason did they have to change? Their match was going according to plan thus far and there was no reason to suggest that second-half would be any different. For Barcelona, the quality was obviously still there – it was just a question of whether we’d see it after the interval. Typically, things get better from the second-half following an international break anyway.

And it seemed as though they would when Neymar recovered from his sub-par first-half showing to coolly slot the ball into the far corner of the net and seemingly hand the Blaugrana a 1-0 lead. The pass from Adriano Correia was inch-perfect and as mentioned, Neymar’s finish oozed pure class but the assistant referee was keen to spoil the party and raised his flag for offside.

Incorrectly.

But hey, what can you do? Sometime those go your way, sometimes they don’t. You accept it, take the positives from the move and get past it. Credit to Neymar, especially with his track record, as he took the decision in his stride and aimed to leave no doubt in the referee’s mind the next time around.

Still, Celta were frustrating the visitors and in a bid to change that, Lucho made his first change of the evening: Xavi Hernández on, Rafinha off. The intent? To gain a little more control in midfield and to improve the quality of our final ball, both in the final third and from set pieces as evidently, the service to the frontline hadn’t been all that great with an hour played at the Balaidos.

And in truth, it didn’t improve a whole lot with Xavi’s introduction. The same old problems, all caused by a spirited, disciplined performance from Celta. We might not have been playing at the peak of our powers, but we’d met our match – and what’s wrong with that? This was a tough match – there’s no reason to read into it any more than that and make a mountain out of the molehill, as would have surely happened if Barça hadn’t of picked up the three points.

Thankfully, Jeremy Mathieu wasn’t going to let that become a reality.

Moments after Gerard Piqué had saved a certain goalscoring opportunity with an impeccable sliding challenge, Mathieu was up at the other end, getting his head on an expertly delivered free-kick by Xavi at the far post. Peeling away from Andreu Fontas, Mathieu’s header was powerful and the placement might not have been all that but it wasn’t to make a difference. Bouncing in off the underside of the bar, Mathieu’s header had put Barça ahead for the second match in succession.

With roughly a quarter of an hour to play at the Balaidos, Luis Enrique made his next substitution: Andrés Iniesta went off to a standing ovation from the home crowd to be replaced by another World Cup winner, Pedro Rodriguez, meaning that Lionel Messi would surely retreat into a more withdrawn role as Barça switched to a 4-2-3-1 of sorts. An interesting decision, but with a one goal lead there was a little less pressure on the change. After all, success would be maintaining the lead.

The final change saw Barça switch back to a more orthodox three-man midfield as Ivan Rakitić replaced Luis Suarez for the final five minutes. Luis Enrique was looking to close this game out and as Celta searched for an equaliser, well even before they could, their charge was halted by a bizarre decision from the referee who sent off Fabian Orellana for hurling some turf at Sergio Busquets.

Yes, you read that right. Orellana was sent off for throwing some grass at Sergio Busquets. As far as odd red cards go, this one probably tops the lot as Orellana saw red following a fake free-kick from Busquets. In the unusual exchange Busquets also saw yellow which means he will be suspended for the midweek match with Almeria – not that we’ll miss him all that much – no disrespect to any Almeria fans or officials that might have found their way to this side of the web.

Until then, let’s enjoy the four point lead over Real Madrid; Visca el Barça!

Roll Call Info
Total comments 747
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Commenter list Abdul S., Abohabiba, Anders Thomassen, AngelCul1, BDBarca, BarcaBarca, Barcasura, BarcelonaCobayo1998, Bostjan Cernensek, Catalan_Blood, ChalkLitIScream, Delano Heerkens, DerkSensei, Eddie Pundell, FCBMo, FCB_Z8, GoBarca, Javz, Lapulga, MMcCoy11_FCB, Neyssi, Rajesh1101s, Ricardo Blonde, Ruy Diaz, Som-i-Serem, Sony13, Steven Cordero, ViscaViscaBarca, Waje.y, Willis1984, Yuro_Doosh, Z Ahmad, abdulla0207, barca4life1273, barca990127, compneeyah, craig00000, elfonzo22, feeya7, footballfordoze, halsey, hobo_barca, istiaque, jeankenzylov, ledhe, llamas612, luck-ycoltsfan19, navjot.kasukurthy, oddsbodiSkins, pagesiderageside, semperty, shirishstha, shreyarora, syredeathtrooper
Story URLs
# Commenter # Comments
1 Bostjan Cernensek 86
2 Delano Heerkens 85
3 Anders Thomassen 54
4 Barcasura 52
5 Ruy Diaz 46
6 Willis1984 42
7 oddsbodiSkins 41
8 Som-i-Serem 27
9 craig00000 25
10 shirishstha 24
11 Lapulga 20
12 feeya7 19
13 Javz 14
14 FCBMo 13
15 semperty 12
16 MMcCoy11_FCB 12
17 halsey 11
18 BarcaBarca 11
19 Catalan_Blood 11
20 FCB_Z8 11
21 syredeathtrooper 9
22 Abdul S. 8
23 Steven Cordero 8
24 llamas612 7
25 AngelCul1 7
26 pagesiderageside 7
27 Rajesh1101s 6
28 Eddie Pundell 6
29 Sony13 6
30 footballfordoze 5
31 GoBarca 5
32 Yuro_Doosh 5
33 luck-ycoltsfan19 5
34 jeankenzylov 4
35 barca4life1273 4
36 Z Ahmad 3
37 navjot.kasukurthy 3
38 Waje.y 3
39 Ricardo Blonde 3
40 compneeyah 3
41 BarcelonaCobayo1998 3
42 abdulla0207 2
43 BDBarca 2
44 hobo_barca 2
45 Abohabiba 2
46 DerkSensei 2
47 ViscaViscaBarca 2
48 elfonzo22 2
49 barca990127 2
50 Neyssi 1
51 ledhe 1
52 ChalkLitIScream 1
53 istiaque 1
54 shreyarora 1