Luis Enrique’s side had looked disjointed and lethargic for a majority of the season, but a big win against Gijon mid-week, followed by the coach’s decision to leave at the end of the season had led many to believe, that this might be the perfect excuse for the squad to switch gears, and finally give the coach a worthy exit.
Could the Catalans show their intent on the night?
Despite the deceptive line up, the Blaugrana started with a 3-4-3 from the opening whistle. Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti, and Jordi Alba formed a three-man backline that was occasionally supported by the likes of Sergio Busquets and Sergi Roberto.
Both sides had some early moments of good passing, but neither were able break through the defence of the opposition.
Nearly ten minutes into the game, Barcelona began to slip through the cracks with help from Neymar, who used the touch-line to great effect. Lionel Messi, who was starting to get involved in play through the middle, set the course for the game early on with some incisive passing.
Some beautiful interplay outside the box between Neymar and Messi set up the Argentine for a shot on goal, but Sergio was on hand to make the save with some quick reflexes.
Celta tried to counter with a spell of possession, but a quick interception from Jordi Alba left the ball at Messi’s feet, who turned to find Suarez in support. The Uruguayan put Neymar through on goal, but the Brazilian’s strike drifted wide from the far-post for a goal-kick.
Another move between Messi and Neymar allowed Rakitic a shot on goal, but Sergio was once more on hand to parry the ball away for a corner.
Moments later, a long pass from Gerard Pique found Suarez who got past his markers with a deft touch before thundering his shot past the goal-keeper, but was denied by the woodwork. Messi pounced on the rebound but was denied by the woodwork himself, before the ball deflected off the keeper for a corner.
Celta had a chance of their own, as Roncaglia had an excellent chance to score from a set-piece.
Twenty minutes in, Neymar got hacked to the ground by Hugo Mallo in the box, but the referee didn’t seem interested in what should have been a penalty. That decision wouldn’t bring the morale down however, as Lionel Messi breezed past the opposition defence in a mazy dribble before slotting the ball into the bottom corner, for the first goal of the game.
Absolutely sensational from the Argentine.
The Blaugrana had drawn first blood, and were firmly in control.
Another moment of magic from Neymar created a chance for Rafinha as the winger combined with Lionel Messi to destabilize the Celta back-line. The Blaugrana looked rejuvenated and their focus showed, in the way the Catalans passed and probed the opposition lines.
In a move that barely lasted a second, Ivan Rakitic made a vertical pass to Messi, who played it first touch to Neymar, before the Brazilian’s first touch chipped the ball over Sergio, to double the lead with five minutes left for the break.
The Blaugrana had had 12 attempts on goal, in the first half, and as the referee called for a restart, one could already guess, that there was more in store for the Camp Nou.
Minutes into the second half, Sergi Roberto went on a dazzling run having spotted acres of space, but was denied a shot on goal by the Celta Vigo keeper. Excellent stuff from the Spanish international, who has looked a little stale in recent days.
The game had settled into a rhythm, and the Blaugrana were the conductors. The Catalans shifted tempo as they pleased, and continued to pile pressure on Berizzo’s men. Chances continued to pile on for the home side, while their opponents struggled to hold onto the ball for any amount of substantial minutes.
At the end of an hour, Ivan Rakitic went ahead and scored a poacher’s goal, from a Rafinha-ball, to make the scoreboard tick, and give the Blaugrana a solid 3-goal lead. There was no coming back.
With in a minute, Samuel Umtiti found himself on the end of a beautifully squared ball from Lionel Messi, to write his name on the score-sheet.
As if assisting wasn’t enough, Messi went ahead and scored the fifth of the game with an incredible goal, after a quick cut in.
If the game wasn’t over earlier, it sure was now.
With the game put to bed, the Blaugrana took their foot off the pedal, and coasted for the remaining 20 minutes of the game, outplaying Celta Vigo with possession, and some off chances.
As the referee blew his three pips, any doubts regarding Luis Enrique’s timing were put to rest.
The game against PSG is still hanging on the ledge, but if the Blaugrana could play anywhere close to the way the did last night, then the fans can certainly look forward to the tie. Until then, the Catalans have done enough to get some rest, and retrospect on what was a game of beautiful, symphonic football.
Onward and upward.