Barcelona were handed a lesson in Vigo as Celta scored twice in each half while Barça were only able to counter once. Celta were led by former Barcelona transfer target Nolito, who scored once and added two assists, and the forgotten Iago Aspas, who scored twice. John Guidetti also scored for the hosts, while Neymar was the only goalscorer for Barcelona.
|Shots on Target||5
What would a Barcelona game be without Luis Enrique making at least one big surprise? This time it came in midfield where, even though the game at Balaidos is one the toughest away games of the season, Ivan Rakitić started the game on the bench, with Sergi Roberto taking his spot in the starting eleven. The remaining five of the "forward six" were as expected. In defense Jeremy Mathieu replaced the injured Jordi Alba on the left-back position while Gerard Pique took part in his first La Liga match of the season.
As expected from an energetic side as Celta, the Galicians started came storming out of the gate, creating their first chance just 70 seconds in, from a Javier Mascherano mistake, but Aspas reacted poorly to acres of space he had available. But it was a sign of things to come as the hosts continued to press extremely high up the pitch, causing turnovers and threatening Marc-Andre ter Stegen's goal.
Barcelona had difficulties coping with Celta's press and the Catalans' transition from defense to midfield was virtually non-existent. But Celta's press eased up slightly after 10 minutes and Barcelona were finally able to breathe a bit. Interestingly, it were the visitors who made more passes than Barcelona in this opening stretch of the game, which is highly unusual for a Barcelona game. But that stat started to "normalize" after Celta's press eased up and Barcelona quickly started creating chances.
First, in the 11th minute, Andres Iniesta found Lionel Messi in space down the left side, but from a tough angle he was unable to put the ball past Sergio Alvarez. Alvarez was called into action again four minutes later when Messi found Neymar in a play similar to the one in the 11th minute, but again it was the Celta goalkeeper who came out victorious.
So after being pinned back by Celta in the opening 20 minutes, Barcelona returned the favor over the next ten as Celta were limited to a couple non-threatening counters while Barça continued to buzz around the penalty area. But Celta's defense was extremely well positioned resulting in quite a few Catalan shots blocked.
Withstanding Barcelona's forward push, Celta's impressive forward group took things into their own hands, scoring two goals in just four minutes. First, in the 26th minute, Nolito received the ball on the left side of the Barcelona area and with no marker in sight he aimed for the far post and with a sublime finish beat ter Stegen. Just four minutes later Pique decided that a one-nothing hole wasn't big enough and coughed up the ball in midfield, leaving Aspas going alone on the Barcelona goalkeeper. One-on-one, the former Liverpool man made no mistake, deftly chipping the ball over the keeper and into the back of the net, doubling Celta's lead. It were the only two shots Celta would put on target in the first half.
Barcelona started growing back into the game after the quick-fire double, but the Celta defense continued with their impressive showing, blocking everything that would've threatened their two goal lead. Neither goalkeeper was called into action again in the first half, so Celta went to the break with a two-goal lead.
Neither team made any chances during halftime, which was only surprising in Barcelona's case as Lucho still had the option of bringing Rakitić on the pitch for one of the underperforming pair of Sergi Roberto or Dani Alves. With a gap of two goals to make up, the option of going for the 4-2-3-1 formation was also available.
The second half started with Barcelona controlling the ball and Celta closing down space brilliantly. The hosts also remained dangerous on the counter attack and a goal was seemingly always in the air when Celta attacked. In the 50th minute, Aspas came close to adding to Celta's lead, but his shot just missed the far post.
Barcelona then created their best scoring chance of the game. For the first time Celta's defense was outplayed and Iniesta found a wide open Messi in the middle who seemed to be left with a simple finish into what was a largely unguarded net, but the Argentine only managed to hit the bar, leaving Celta's lead safe. It was even more save four minutes later when Nolito sprung Aspas again and the forward again beat ter Stegen.
Lucho then brought in some offensive reinforcements, as Munir El Haddadi replaced the underwhelming Roberto. The substitute quickly joined in on the action, but not even he could beat Alvarez in the 61st minute, as he joined the ever growing list of players who had their shot saved by the Celta keeper.
Barcelona continued with chance creation, but until the 80th minute, well after Barcelona's second sub in which Rakitić replaced Busquets, the Catalans couldn't break through. Neymar, who was one of the most dangerous Barça players on the pitch, was the man that finally beat Alvarez, after a gorgeous long pass from Messi.
That gave Barcelona a glimmer of hope, but just four minutes later Guidetti killed any hope of a comeback. Hugo Mallo centered the ball past Pique, who somehow missed the clearance, and the Swede was able to score his first goal for Celta. Barcelona would go quickly back on the attack, but it was all too little too late for the Catalans who lost their first game of the season.
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