Facing a team that had become the Blaugrana’s kryptonite in the last 2 seasons, Barcelona fell short in a shock defeat to Celta Vigo.
Resting key midfielders after a tough game midweek, Luis Enrique started Andre Gomes and Rafinha alongside Sergio Busquets. Replacing El Jefecito was the infamous Mathieu, who slotted in defense next to Gerard Pique, supported by the Gala XI full-backs. Arda Turan accompanied Neymar and Luis Suarez to complete the starting line-up.
Both teams struggled to get a strong foothold in the opening minutes of the game. Barça played with the ball, and attempted to push Celta into their own box while Celta did their best to play efficiently and make the most of the chances they could manufacture in the little time they had.
After a few half-chances for both teams, Celta drew first blood, as a poor pass from MATS to Busquets lead to a counter; Iago Aspas sent the ball through to Sisto, who finished into the far post. A calm finish from the new arrival made the score 1-0.
Ten minutes later, Iago Aspas was on the receiving end of clearance/long-ball on the counter. He displayed good ball control to get past Barça’s centre-backs and took a shot from outside the box, that found the back of the net.
A moment later, in a bid to make a last-ditch tackle in the box, Jeremy Mathieu nudges the ball past Ter Stegen to score an own goal.
As half time approached, it seemed like any comeback Barça could possibly make, would require a monumental effort.
Andres Iniesta stepped onto the pitch instead of Rafinha post half time, to tip the scales in Barça’s favour.
The game became an end to end affair, as both teams continued to play attacking football, but failing to make any significant impact in the final third. Celta were the first to slow down the pace, as they looked to make the most of their massive 3 goal advantage. Barça countered, with Neymar and Andre Gomes linking well in the final third, only for the play to end in a poor shot.
Making an instant impact, Iniesta found Pique in the box, who slotted the ball in calmly, to begin Barça’s hopeful comeback.
Iniesta’s arrival brought in necessary control to the game, as he continued to glide past his markers and find his teammates with otherworldly passes. With new vigour, Barça continued to prod and probe Celta’s defense, creating chances and mounting pressure.
Celta’s bus-parking back-fired, as Radoja brought down Andre Gomes in the box. The referee pointed to the spot after a moment of hesitation, and Neymar finished the following penalty with ease to reduce the deficit.
Could Barça make a come back?
Another spell of end to end football with half chances, and shots with little thought took over. Both teams had switched onto the offensive and were sparring for control with neither managing to grab the game by its neck.
73 minutes in, Gerard Pique gets into the referee’s books for a late tackle on Aspas.
Striving to add an attacking option on the pitch, Denis Suarez came on for Sergio Busquets, at the 75th minute.
Moments later, any fight that Barça had, was snatched away from them, as Ter Stegen was unaware of pressure on the back-pass, and his pass to Mathieu was intercepted and headed into the back of the net by Hernandez.
Luis Enrique switched Alba with Alcacer, to add another player in Celta’s box and salvage anything that he could from the game.
An unlikely Gerard Pique lurked in the Celta box and was on the receiving end of a cross from Denis Suarez. As Pique headed the ball in for another goal, Cules across the globe sat up a little straighter in their seats.
In the 89th minute, Arda Turan found Neymar with a good cross, only for Neymar’s header to go off-target as Barça ran out of regular time.
Despite 5 minutes of stoppage time, Barça failed to take points home, as the referee blew his whistle to call the game to an end.
An entertaining game nonetheless, the major takeaway from this match is that Barça had a good game, and only lost to themselves, in a game where 3 out of 4 goals for the opposition came from individual mistakes.
Onward and upward.