Barcelona were the firm favourites to take three points at home on Saturday but they were held by Juan Carlos Unzue’s Celta Vigo.
The Blaugrana had only dropped four points, away matches against Athletic Madrid in October and Valencia last weekend.
Unfortunately, Celta had other plans and a great collective effort by the Celtics saw them come back from behind to seal a point. Both teams had good chances, but Barcelona were the better side overall. They will feel like today was a loss, even though the final result was 2 – 2.
Barcelona had the first real chance within five minutes. Lionel Messi made a powerful run from the halfway line. Eight of the Celtic players were chasing him down at one point. Ultimately, the Argentinian’s shot was deflected as a result of Celta’s sheer defensive numbers.
A few minutes later, Celta had their first promising cross. It fell just low enough for Ter Stegen to get fingertrips to it, the ball deflected dangerously up into the air for a moment but the German recovered it well. Celta were pushing well after the first ten minutes and had a few opportunities to get in crosses and start testing the Barcelona defense. The first goal came in the 20th minute from Iago Aspas.
Aspas launched a well-timed cross to Maxi Gómez who was denied by another great Ter Stegen block. Unfortunately for the goalkeeper, the rebound off his right leg fell kindly to an attentive Iago Aspas. The Spaniard was only too happy to put it in the back of the net.
Celta’s happiness only lasted two minutes as Messi netted an equalizer for his first goal in six matches. Andrés Iniesta set up the play with a short pass to Luis Suárez. Suárez attempted a one-two with Paulinho, but when the Uruguayan missed the return pass it did not matter as Messi was just behind him and able to slot it through the legs of the goalkeeper.
Barcelona were threatening the rest of the second half, trying to take command of the match. In the 30th minute, Suárez had a powerful header that bounced off a Celta defender’s face, falling kindly to Messi who was denied by the post.
Soon later, Barcelona were on the attack again. Messi set up the ball perfectly for Jordi Alba on the left. But, he was unable to control it and get it in a box crowded with BlauGrana shirts. Another lost opportunity for Barcelona to get ahead. In the 35th minute, Ivan Rakitić hit a perfectly aimed cross for Paulinho. Unfortunately, the Brazilian wasted his chance and his header bounced right off the Celta goalkeeper.
The last five minutes of the first half saw Celta the more threatening side. Barcelona almost seemed to be waiting for the halftime whistle. Downright lazy play on the edge of their box saw Celta gain possession several times. The Celtics should really have made them pay for the mistakes.
Barcelona picked up the intensity in the second half. The first chance came within five minutes when Paulinho made a good run, dodging several defenders and just toe-poking the ball past the approaching goalkeeper’s fingertips. In the end, Paulinho had taken himself too far wide and his shot was outside of the left post.
The second Barcelona goal came in the 62nd minute due to some great play in particular from Jordi Alba. Jordi Alba on the left flank sent the ball to Messi in the middle, meanwhile making a run to the edge of the penalty box. When Messi returned the ball, Jordi Alba thumped it into the centre where Suárez was right in front of goal with acres of space to fire it home. The Uruguayan has now scored 127 goals in 165 matches and is in the top 10 list of all time goal scorers at Barcelona.
At Barcelona 2 – 1 Celta Vigo, the game was by no means settled. In fact, the intensity picked up with Barça searching for a third and the Celtics searching for an equalizer. Good chances were coming at both ends and the Camp Nou crowd was fired up despite the cold.
By the 69th minute, Celta had their equalizer. Iago went head-to-head with Umtiti down the right flank, but the Frenchman had to pull up due to an injury. This left Jordi Alba one-on-one with Iago who by this time was inside the box. Iago passed to Maxi Gómez who had time to control the ball, look at the goal and shoot into the space. Reports are that Umtiti will now be out for two months and miss next month’s El Clásico match.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) December 2, 2017
Again, Barcelona could have taken the three points with further opportunities from Messi and a set piece that saw Piqué hit the post. It was not to be and ultimately the match ended with a draw.
Celta coach Juan Carlos Unzué talked before the match that in order to win at Camp Nou, teams need to have a perfect collective attitude. His players certainly showed that today with the character to get the early first goal, and then come back from behind in the second half.
“I think that the result is good for us. And just.” Unzué commented,
“For Celta and my players, it is of big moral significance. It proves that what we are trying to transmit is effective and that it can make us compete and play better.”
Meanwhile, Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde was understandably disappointed after the match.
“Two points have slipped away from us. They started better and we found it difficult to get going but then we got ourselves together. After the equalizer, we could have scored a third. We generated enough chances to have taken all three points.”
Barcelona has a difficult December coming up, with matches away at Villarreal next week and then the much anticipated El Clásico on December 23rd. Similarly, Celta also has some difficult matches coming up against Valencia, Villarreal and Deportivo this month.
All eyes now turn to the Athletic Bilbao v. Real Madrid match tonight and Getafe v. Valencia match tomorrow. It remains to be seen whether other clubs can take advantage of the two points Barcelona dropped today.