Barcelona and Celta Vigo put on a show for 90 minutes on the first leg of their Copa del Rey Round of 16 matchup at the Balaídos Stadium, with a 1-1 draw not doing justice to the wonderful action we saw. Barça did not have Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Andrés Iniesta but still managed to play pretty well, and the away goal tonight is obviously a very good advantage for next week’s match at Camp Nou.
The game promised entertainment and it delivered from the start, with both teams pressing each other high up the pitch and creating a big number of chances with long possessions and counter attacks. Barça struck first on a counter when André Gomes found José Arnáiz alone in front of goal, and the Barça B star did not miss.
After scoring Barça began to control the game a lot more and looked ready to find a second, but a fast counter attack from the hosts finished with Iago Aspas hitting the crossbar and the rebound falling to Pione Sisto, who sent a rocket into the top corner to equalize for Celta.
At halftime, a very good game had a deserved draw and we had no idea who would win the game.
The final period was just as fun as the first, with both teams sticking to their plan and constantly going forward. Barça had the better chances early on, with Denis Suarez missing from point blank range and Sergio Busquets hitting the crossbar in the first 20 minutes of the half.
Celta then took initiative themselves and began to trouble the Barça defense, and they had one golden opportunity with substitute Emre Mor, who went through in the box and fired his shot just wide of Cillessen’s goal.
Ousmane Dembélé came on for Barça and showed his usual tricks with the ball, but he wasn’t able to create any chances and was clearly a player who had missed almost four months with an injury. Both teams kept trying to find a winning goal, but the two defenses managed to hold on to a very entertaining 1-1 draw.
It’s all wide open for next week’s match at Camp Nou, but Barça played quite well without their three superstars. Messi, Suárez and Iniesta will probably play in the second leg, but their job won’t be so hard. This team did well without them, and the game was super fun. That was something we didn’t think would happen under Valverde.
Barça: Cillessen; Semedo, Piqué, Vermaelen, Digne; Busquets; Vidal (Roberto), Paulinho (Rakitic), Gomes, Denis; Arnáiz (Dembélé)
Goal: Arnáiz (15’)
Celta: Álvarez; Mallo, Gómez, Fontàs, Jonny (Roncaglia); Wass (Méndez), Lobotka, Jozabed, Sisto (Mor); Aspas, Gómez
Goal: Sisto (31’)