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Luis Suárez, assisted on both occasions by Leo Messi, scored twice in a fascinating encounter on the Galician coast this Saturday afternoon. But Celta are a much-improved side of late and managed to cancel out both goals … and if it hadn’t been for Ter Stegen blocking Nolito in the final seconds, Barça could have ended up with nothing.
The point means Barça go a point clear at the top of the Liga table, but Real Madrid have a game in hand, which they’ll play against struggling Espanyol tomorrow.
Balaídos has not been a happy-hunting ground for Barça of late. The last five visits had produced three defeats and two draws. And today they were facing a side that might be in the bottom quarter of the table, but had only conceded one goal in their last seven games.
But anyone who had a ‘nasty feeling’ about this game was very much put at ease as Barça piled on the early pressure. In the best of several chances, Gerard Piqué headed onto the crossbar. We were being treated to perhaps the most dazzling football that Barça had played since lockdown ended.
The visitors deserved a goal and got it. It came from a Messi free kick on the edge of the area. But rather than go for goal, as everyone expected, the Argentinian instead delivered a perfect ball onto Luis Suárez’s head, and the Uruguayan notched up his first goal since returning from injury.
We’d seen very little of Celta, but two shots onto the post in quick succession offered a reminder that they were still there. Iago Aspas, no stranger to scoring against Barça, was also a constant threat… But Barça were playing by far the better football and both Messi and Ansu Fati could have extended the lead before the break.
So far, so good. But the second half was only five minutes old when Celta equalised. They’d made a lively start to the half and seized their moment when Barça’s guard was down. Aspas did well to finish his run by picking out Fyodor Smolov. The Russian did his job and it was 1-1.
It was the first goal Barça had conceded since La Liga restarted.
With four former Barça men (Rafinha, Denis Suárez, Nolito and Jeison Murillo) on the field, the home side looked even more dangerous. Barça needed to find something and it was Suárez who found it. He’d never scored at Balaídos before and today he did it twice. Again a Messi assist and a wonderful swivel and finish from El Pistolero had Barça back where they deserved to be – winning.
Celta bite back
Celta didn’t give up. It took some Ter Stegen magic to prevent Nolito from putting the sides level again, but there was nothing the German could do to prevent Aspas’ equaliser. From a Barça point of view, it hurt … but it would be wrong not to commend the Celta striker for such a perfectly executed free-kick. The curled around the wall and slotted inside the bottom left hand corner. Nobody was to blame. It was just a very good goal.
And it could have been worse. In the dying seconds of injury time, Nolito only had to tap in from point-blank range but failed to find his spot and Ter Stegen was able to avoid what would have been a very cruel defeat indeed.
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