Barcelona continued their good form in La Liga, winning their sixth game in succession, a run during which they conceded only once. While it might not have been a performance for the ages Barcelona outperformed their opponents in attack. Led by Luis Suarez who scored twice and added an assist while Lionel Messi scores his 400th goal the Catalans reached the halfway mark of the season in first place with a five point lead.
After a long stretch of starting games, Ousmane Dembele and Arturo Vidal took to the bench in this one and were replaced in the starting XI by Philippe Coutinho and Arthur. With the return of Sergi Roberto the back-line also returned to a more familiar look as Nelson Semedo had to return to the bench.
Barcelona started the match in possession, but Eibar quickly showed they didn’t travel to the Catalan capital to play for a goalless draw. The Basques pushed high up the pitch, but the Barcelona defense handled all the early threats. On offense Barcelona struggled to create much in the early going as the front three couldn’t really connect with one another.
Barcelona weren’t firing on all cylinders, but they were the better team on the pitch, even if they were held shot-less through 19 minutes. But that would change in the 20th minute after a marvelous connection between Coutinho and Suarez which left the Uruguayan with a good look on goal. While falling down the striker fired a shot on target to the far post that went out of reach of Asier Riesgo and just inside the post for the lead.
With the lead in hand for Barcelona the game didn’t change much as the visitors continued to look for an opening on the counter attack while Barcelona didn’t really look comfortable in attack. With the flow of the game the way it was it didn’t come as much of a surprise that the next scoring chance went Eibar’s way, but Sergi Enrich’s header whistled just wide of Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s left post.
As the first half was reaching its final stages Eibar were mounting an onslaught that Barcelona managed to fight off – even if it didn’t always look pretty. Barcelona mounted a press of their own in the dying moments of the first half but their most promising attacking effort ended with a waved off penalty claim by Coutinho.
After the restart the visitors were looking to quickly tie the game up at one, often pinning Barcelona deep, but ter Stegen went largely untested as the Barcelona defense cleared the danger away. Weathering the early storm, Barcelona doubled their lead in the 53rd minute after Suarez stole the ball deep in Eibar territory and once again went on to combine with Coutinho. A couple passes later Suarez found Messi inside the area who took a few steps deeper before firing an unstoppable shot to the far post. It was Barcelona’s second shot on goal and second goal.
Two minutes later Suarez had a golden chance to add another for Barcelona, but the Uruguayan’s close range header was somehow fought off by Riesgo. Moments later Coutinho and Messi combined to spring the Brazilian, but once again Riesgo managed to make the save. Shortly thereafter the trio of Barcelona attackers combined again, but Messi’s shot on goal was too weak to beat the goalkeeper. But Barcelona’s pressure finally paid off in the 59th minute when Suarez scored his second of the match. Roberto quickly took the throw-in to send Suarez down the right wing and from a tough angle the Uruguayan found the back of the net to add to Barcelona’s lead.
After not showing much for most of the first half Barcelona picked up the pace in the second and they were quickly rewarded with two goals to their account. And with a healthy lead in hand the Catalans’ pace quickly dropped. Eibar were again afforded more space in attack and Ernesto Valverde started plotting how to impede Eibar’s attacking efforts. In the 66th minute Barcelona made their first substitution as Vidal took Busquets place on the pitch. Five minutes later Dembele replaced Arthur, leading to a rare sight as both Coutinho and Dembele were on the pitch for Barcelona.
With the game all but decided Eibar’s search for a consolidation goal continued but Barcelona’s defense mostly did its job very well. And even when the defense faltered there was ter Stegen in goal who made his first save in the 74th minute.
With roughly ten minutes left to play Barcelona completed their final personnel change with Nelson Semedo replacing Roberto on the right side of defense. The last stages of the match were a mere formality and even though the visitors were pushing for the consolidation goal it would not come and Barcelona ran out deserved winners. It’s back to the Copa del Rey for Barcelona now where the Catalans will look to overturn a one goal deficit earned in Valencia against Levante.