Barcelona extended their perfect run to start the season, blowing past Eibar by 6 goals to 1, on the backs of yet another monster showing from Lionel Messi who finished the game with four goals. Paulinho and Denis Suarez also scored for Barcelona, while each also picking up an assist, and Sergi Enrich found the back of the net for the visiting side.
Ernesto Valverde rotated heavily in this match, leaving several key players on the bench, Luis Suarez for example, while some, like Samuel Umtiti, didn’t even make the match squad. Lucas Digne started at left-back, while Paulinho made his first Barcelona start in midfield. Denis Suarez and Gerard Deulofeu stared on the wings.
While Barcelona started the match, as expected, dominating possession, it were the visitors who threated first. Sergi Enrich was played behind the Barcelona defense for a one-on-one with Marc-Andre ter Stegen, but the young German won the duel.
Barcelona struggled in the early going as Eibar’s positioning and defense very effectively shut down the Catalans. There was very little room for Messi and company to operate, leading to numerous misplaced passes and turnovers. But even though they forced several turnovers, Eibar couldn’t really threaten on the counter attack. The visitors were often found buzzing around ter Stegen’s area, but apart from the aforementioned chance by Enrich, ter Stegen didn’t have to get involved much.
Regardless of their early struggles, Barcelona still managed to take the lead in the 20th minute. The ball was played to Nelson Semedo inside the Eibar penalty area. The Portuguese defender went down after a body check by Álex Gálvez and referee Alejandro José Hernández Hernández was quick to point to the spot. Lionel Messi took responsibility and, unlike on his last attempt, found the back of the net for the sixth time this season. Goalkeeper Marko Dmitrović guessed right, but Messi’s shot went over his hand and into the back of the net for the lead.
Barcelona looked to quickly double their lead as just over a minute later Deulofeu was played behind the line and was going alone on Dmitrović, but the play was whistled dead for offside. The replays were inconclusive, though the young winger appeared to be level with Eibar’s last defender. In the 26th minute Messi looked to double up, but this time he was denied by the Serbian goalkeeper. Messi was aiming for the top corner, but Dmitrović did well to prevent to goal.
The Catalans continued to attack in search of a bigger lead, however, Eibar continued to hold Barcelona’s attacks to the perimeter, even though the Basque side didn’t come to the Camp Nou to park a bus. Manager José Luis Mendilibar has often come to play to Barcelona instead of defending with eleven, but whether that is a prudent tactic is up for debate, as his teams conceded 32 goals in seven games in Barcelona.
And the 37th minute added another goal to that statistic. Takashi Inui lost the ball in transition, leading to a quick Barcelona counterattack. Deulofeu played the ball to Messi on the edge of the area, but his low shot was excellently saved by Dmitrović. But from the ensuing corner kick Barcelona doubled the lead. Denis swung the ball into the area where Paulinho rose the highest and powered the ball into the net.
The last scoring opportunity of the opening 45 minutes would, however, go to Eibar, who had a good look on goal from a free kick from roughly 25 yards out, but Anaitz Arbilla’s shot was blocked. There was no time for the ensuing corner kick as the referee immediately whistled for halftime.
Both teams started the second half looking to attack, but with Barcelona’s defense looking strong from left to right, Barcelona often found space going forward on the counter. Sadly, both good looking attacks launched in the opening five minutes were thwarted due to poor decision making from Deulofeu. Overall, it wasn’t a very good night for the winger, who left much to be desired in attack, but made numerous contributions on defense.
But even though the Catalans missed some early chances, they would not be denied again in the 53rd minute. Iniesta started the play with a long pass to Messi, with a massive assist to Paulinho who appeared to be the initial recipient, but as two defenders moved in on the Brazilian, he let the ball past him to spring Messi on the counter. Messi fired another low shot from an excellent spot, but again he was denied by Dmitrović. The rebound, however, fell right to the waiting Denis, who powered the ball in to increase the lead.
Both teams were in full attack mode by now as four goals would be scored in less than ten minutes. The first one was the aforementioned one by Denis. The second came on the other end of the pitch after a perfect cross from Junca to Enrich who scored with a lovely redirection after some lax defending from Gerard Pique.
Two minutes later, in the 59th minute, Messi finally bested Dmitrović from the edge of the area with a low shot. Sergio Busquets found Messi in just enough space to make a couple steps and fire on goal to restore the three-goal lead with a shot just mere inches inside the post.
In the 62nd minute, Messi completed the hat-trick. The attack, however, started inside the Barcelona area, where ter Stegen made an excellent save on Inui. From the save, Barcelona immediately went on the counter that after a few passes saw Paulinho play Messi into a great position. Surrounded by three defenders, Messi somehow got a shot off that went through the legs of Dmitrović and into the net.
In quick succession Valverde then made two substitution, both with the intention of resting key figures. First, Sergi Roberto replaced Iniesta, then moments later, Busquets made way for Ivan Rakitić. Even though the game was all but decided, Barcelona continued to play attacking football and continued to press on the rare occasion when Eibar took possession of the ball. An excellent example of that came in the 71st minute when Digne stopped a counter attack and immediately went forward to receive a pass from Pique to create an excellent scoring chance, though the Frenchman was ultimately denied by Dmitrović
Even in the final ten minutes, Barcelona players were still sprinting all over the pitch to put pressure on Eibar players going forward. There was less urgency in attack, but such energy from Barcelona as a team was rarely seen in recent seasons. Eibar looked for one more consolidation goal, but despite good effort, and a terrible turnover from Pique, the closest Eibar came was when Rubén Peña hit the post in the 86th minute. And when Charles hit the crossbar in the dying moments of the game…
But even though Barcelona rarely attacked in the final ten minutes of the game, the Catalans would add one more to their total, again courtesy of Messi. The Argentine himself started the key move in the attack, playing a great pass to the right side to Aleix Vidal, who joined play in the 75th minute in place of Deulofeu. Vidal wasted no time and quickly sent a perfect back-pass to Messi who picked up his fourth of the night with and easy finish.
In all, it was a clinical performance from Barcelona in a game in which both sides had a similar number of shots (11-13 actually in favor of Eibar), but Barcelona scored five goals more. The Catalans’ grueling schedule continues on Saturday when they travel to fellow Catalans – Girona.