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With Sergio ruled out through suspension, Jordi Alba captained Barça to a eventful victory against Celta Vigo, tightening their grip on second place in LaLiga. Goals by Memphis and Auba (2) made it 3-0, Aspas getting one back to make it 3-1, before a lengthy stoppage due to a head injury to Araujo, who was taken off the pitch in an ambulance.
Xavi was clearly looking to seal 2nd place and qualification for the Spanish Super Cup as soon as possible, naming a line-up featuring four attacking players in Memphis, Ferran, Aubameyang, and Dembélé. Celta coach Eduardo Coudet named the same side that won 4-0 at home to Alavés last weekend.
Dembélé the spark
Celta started the game brightly, dominating possession, with Barça typically trying to win the ball back high up the pitch. The game almost flashed into life in the 14th minute as Aspas intercepted an Araujo back pass, who immediately atoned by preventing a clear shot with a great challenge. Celta were also threatening through the pacy Franco Cervi down the left.
However, Barça struck first, Dembélé picking up the ball for the first time on the right, nutmegging his man, riding another challenge, before crossing the ball across the penalty area for Memphis to sweep home in the 30thminute. 1-0, what a move!
This prompted an inevitable response from Celta, Galhardo shooting from the edge of the area on the 36thminute, saved by Ter Stegen with a strong left hand around the post.
Then, on the 41st minute, Alba played a ball over the top to Memphis who had made a great run in the left channel. He then fed the ball into the centre of the penalty area, where Auba profited from weak defending by Nestor to hook the ball into the right side of the goal for 2-0. Breathing space.
Eventful second half
Riqui Puig came on for Ferran in the second half and Barça were back into the classic 4-3-3 formation. This paid dividends in the 48th minute with almost a carbon copy of the Memphis goal, this time Dembélé crossing from the right to reach Auba who swept it into the left corner of the goal.
Again Celta weren’t cowed, a mix up by Ter Stegen and Araujo allowing Galhardo to nip in, Aspas slotting the ball in to the right of Ter Stegen for 3-1 in the 50th minute. However, Celta left themselves with a mountain to climb when ex-Barça man Murillo received a 58th minute red card for a last man challenge on Memphis, who stepped up to put a curling free kick just wide of the right post.
A 60th minute clash of heads between Araujo and Gavi was great cause for concern, leading to Araujo being taken off the pitch due to concussion, replaced by Lenglet. Ansu Fati also replaced Memphis to add to his minutes after returning from injury.
The remainder of the game was dominated by Dembélé raiding down the right, with Riqui Puig almost profiting from a 4th goal that was ruled out for offside. Luuk de Jong had a chance to score a trademark header after coming off the bench late on, but despite 11 minutes of time added on for the injury to Araujo, the 10 men of Celta kept the score down to 3-1. The efficient Barça attack scored three of their four shots on target and Dembélé added two more assists to make it 13 in LaLiga this season.
Ultimately, a comfortable victory for Barça, closer to sealing second place in the league and qualification for next season's Spanish Super Cup.
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