Barcelona outclassed Deportivo with two goals each from Luis Suarez and Paulinho, but even though the score indicates some Barcelona domination, in truth, Deportivo can count themselves very lucky they did not lose this game by double digits. Poor finishing and no luck for the Catalans were the culprits for that as Barcelona missed numerous excellent chances, including a penalty kick, and hit the woodwork an incredible five times, with Lionel Messi accounting for three of those hits.
As expected, Barcelona dominated the ball from the get-go, while the visitors looked to close down space to the best of their abilities. But even though Deportivo focused on defense, Barcelona created a very good chance just three minutes in. Luis Suarez led the Barcelona attack and looked to play a one-two with Andres Iniesta, but the midfielder’s return pass was redirected by Sidnei. The bouncing ball found Lionel Messi, but the Argentine, trying a first time shot, couldn’t send the ball on target.
Three minutes later it appeared that Barcelona had taken the lead through an easy Suarez tap-in after a terrific play that started on the left wing and continued in the middle. However, the goal was correctly ruled out for offside as Messi’s pass that found Paco Alcacer in the build-up to the goal was indeed offside as the linesman signaled.
Deportivo started showing some life around the 10 minute mark, when they threatened on the counter after a Barcelona corner kick, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen easily saved the weak shot. The visitors also won a corner kick a few moments later, but the Barcelona defense handled the danger. The Catalans countered quickly with a chance of their own, but Ruben was able to save Messi’s shot.
Barcelona’s attacking plans took a hit in the 20th minute with Alcacer experiencing some discomfort. Alcacer was having a good game, showing plenty of life, but after a quick medical consult, Valverde was forced to take the Spaniard off the pitch. After a quick warm-up, Aleix Vidal entered the game.
The visitors cleaned up their game after a scrappy start but Barcelona slowly started to pile on the pressure. In the 27th minute Roberto made a lovely run down the right side and found Messi in the middle. Messi took the ball to the left before firing a fierce shot on target, but Ruben was there to make the strong save. Ruben was called into action again less than a minute later, brilliantly stopping Vidal’s close range howitzer.
Deportivo were again living dangerously, but unlike earlier in the half they would not leave unscathed. In the 30th minute, Iniesta sent a perfect over the top ball to the onrushing Messi. Controlling the ball with only the goalkeeper in his way, the Argentine unselfishly squared the ball to Suarez who tapped it into the empty net before Ruben could return across the goalmouth.
Barcelona were looking to add more and six minutes later they launched a very dangerous counter attack as the Catalans outnumbered the Galicians. Messi passed the ball to Suarez inside the area, before the Uruguayan returned the favor. From a very good spot, Messi fired on goal, and beat Ruben, but his shot cannoned off the crossbar and Barcelona’s lead remained minimal.
Four minutes later, Barcelona made Deportivo pay for a deep turnover. Messi made a couple brilliant moves before firing from the edge of the area, again beating the goalkeeper, but yet again he was denied by the frame of the goal. Paulinho, however, beat his marker to the rebound and the Brazilian slotted the ball into the empty net, doubling Barcelona’s lead.
Barcelona appeared to have added another one in the dying moments of the half after some great play deep in the penalty area and a stunning rabona finish from Suarez from a difficult angle. But with Ruben diving back across the line, making a “deep save”. The play was much closer than in the infamous Valencia case, but it still appeared that the ball fully crossed the line, but referee Mateu Lahoz waved play on, sending the two teams to the halftime break moments later.
While Suarez didn’t get the goal just before the break, he did get one less than two minutes after. Vidal played the ball down the right wing to Roberto who sent a beautiful low cross right into the path of Suarez who simply tapped the ball out of reach of Ruben for the commanding lead.
After conceding for the third time, Deportivo showed more attacking appetite, leading to plenty of back and forth action, as both sides looked to create chances, but neither was particularly effective in doing so. Deportivo fired their most promising shot in the 55th minute when Carles Gil unleashed one from distance, but missed the target by about a foot.
Moments later, Valverde made his second substitution of the game, already looking forward to the El Clasico, as Andre Gomes replaced the impressive Iniesta. Slowly but surely Barcelona went to a more controlling style of play, with fewer numbers in attack, conserving energy. As a result Deportivo saw more of the ball and started to attack more, often creating decent half-chances, but ter Stegen went mostly untested.
But when Barcelona attacked, they still looked dangerous. In the 67th minute, Barcelona won a free kick in a good spot. Messi set himself up and fired on goal, again beating Ruben, but for a third time he was denied by the post. Moments later, Messi fired again from distance, but this time he just missed the target. In the 69th minute, Suarez won a penalty kick for Barcelona. Messi stepped up, this time not hitting the post, but also not beating Ruben who made yet another marvelous save on the Argentine superstar.
While Messi couldn’t buy a single goal on this night in Barcelona, Paulinho on the other hand couldn’t get out of the way of rebounds before scoring. The Catalans launched another brilliant counter attack in the 76th minute. Several quick, crisp passes led to Jordi Alba firing on goal, but he too was denied by the post. The rebound, however, hit Paulinho who had little to no time to react, but the ball still managed to cross the goal-line for Paulinho’s first brace in Barcelona colors.
Lucas Digne was brought on in place of Alba for the last ten minutes. Meanwhile, Deportivo were searching for the consolidation goal, while Barcelona were looking to set up Messi for the goal that was somehow eluding him. Both sides struggled in their quests, but where Barcelona didn’t struggle is hitting the frame of the goal as they did it again in the 85th minute, this time Suarez hitting the outside of Ruben’s right post.
Messi came (again) close to scoring in the 89th minute, this time straight from a corner kick, but just missed the near post. In the dying moments of the game, Deportivo also came very close to scoring the consolidation goal, but Borja Valle’s powerful shot was denied by ter Stegen.
With Valencia losing, Barcelona extended their La Liga lead to six points to the second placed team, Atletico Madrid. With only one game left in 2017, Barcelona will finish the year in the lead, but Barcelona would like nothing more than to end the year with an El Clasico win on Saturday.