Barcelona remain unbeaten to start the season and have won their fifth La Liga game in a row, and while this wasn’t as pretty and dominant as the last two games it was just as exciting as Barça came from behind to beat Celta Vigo 3-2 at the Montjuïc Olympic Stadium on Saturday evening.
The Blaugrana struggled for 75 minutes to break down the visitors’ tight defense and found themselves down two goals, but a fantastic late comeback led by Robert Lewandowski and finished by João Cancelo gave Barça all three points in dramatic fashion, and the defending champions will be at the top of the table for at least the next 24 hours.
From the second this one started, you could sense it was going to be a frustrating evening for the home team. Celta parked the bus from the opening whistle, defending in a very compact 5-3-2 and closing down spaces with very good organization. Barça had no choice but to keep the ball and pass it around looking for openings, but they struggled to create any meaningful chances in the first 20 minutes.
To make matters worse, they went behind: a lapse in concentration by the defense after clearing a Celta corner led to an assist by Luca de la Torre to Jorgen Strand Larsen, who was all alone inside the box and had time to pick out the bottom corner with an excellent finish to give the visitors the lead.
Barça improved after conceding and began moving the ball more quickly to finally find some spaces in the middle, and João Félix missed a couple of excellent opportunities after great passing work in midfield. But the Catalans couldn’t break down the Sky Blues, and also lost Frenkie de Jong to an ankle injury late in the period.
They also looked vulnerable at the back, and Celta had a number of really good moments and could have easily doubled their lead if not for some poor finishing an a couple of big saves by Marc-André ter Stegen.
At halftime Celta’s gameplan was being executed perfectly and they had a deserved lead based on how well they defended and counter-attacked, and Barça needed plenty of improvement to find a way back in the final period.
Xavi Hernández wasted no time and was aggressive at halftime, with two substitutions and a change of formation that left the team with four attackers and more numbers in the middle as the coach looked to present the Celta defense with a different problem.
But the change in system also left them even more vulnerable at the back, and a lot of sloppy passing in midfield led to some dangerous Celta counter-attacks in the first 15 minutes of the period, and Barça looked closer to conceding a second than scoring the equalizer as we hit the hour mark.
Alejandro Balde was the next to come on with 30 minutes to go to try and add even more attacking intent to the home team, and his entrance coincided with Barça finally looking like a better offensive unit and being more accurate an dynamic with their passing.
Ferran Torres missed Barça’s best chance to equalize when he was played one-on-one against Celta keeper Iván Villar but dragged his shot agonizingly wide, but it finally felt like Barça were about to score at any moment.
Raphinha was Xavi’s last roll of the dice with 20 minutes to go, but the Brazilian barely had any time to make an impact before Celta delivered a potential knockout blow: a beautifully crafted counter ended with an assist by Iago Aspas and a good finish by Anastasios Douvikas to double the visitors’ lead.
Barça got one back just five minutes later as João Félix played a gorgeous ball over the top and Robert Lewandowski scored a beautiful chip over the keeper that went in off the crossbar, giving Barça some life and setting up a dramatic finish ahead of the final 10 minutes plus stoppage time.
The Blaugrana wasted no time scoring an equalizer after a gorgeous pass from Raphinha and an assist by João Cancelo to Lewandowski, who made it 2-2 just four minutes after his first goal and gave Barça a real chance to find a late winner. And find it they did: a brilliant cross from Gavi found a perfectly timed run by João Cancelo and the full-back scored a gorgeous volley to give Barça the lead just before stoppage time.
Seven minutes were added and Barça needed to regroup and focus on protecting the lead as Celta threw caution to the wind looking to rescue a point. Óscar Mingueza almost scored against his former club in what was Celta’s best chance in the dying moments, but the Catalans survived the late blitz and clinched all three points when the final whistle was blown.
Celta did a great job of frustrating Barça and the Blaugrana contributed to what could have been their own downfall, but the resilience shown to come back and score three great goals without resorting to desperate crossing tactics shows the growth of this team. What a comeback, what a win, and what a player João Cancelo is.
Well done, boys!
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Cancelo, Kounde, Christensen (Balde 60’), Alonso (Yamal 46’); Gündogan, Romeu (Araujo 46’), De Jong (Gavi 36’); Ferran (Raphinha 72’), Lewandowski, Félix
Goals: Lewandowski (81’, 85’), Cancelo (89’)
Celta Vigo: Villar; Mingueza, Núñez (Rodríguez 90’+4), Starfelt, Domínguez, Ristic; Bamba (Dotor 90’+4), Beltrán, De La Torre; Aspas (Swedberg 78’), Larsen (Douvikas 66’)
Goals: Larsen (19’), Douvikas (76’)