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Barça have been famed for their comebacks over the years, and what we witnessed at the Estadi Olimpic today was up there with the best of them.
Xavi's side were trailing 2-0 with a quarter of an hour to go. And to be perfectly honest, deservedly so. Celta had been outstanding and Barça’s performance had had very little to do with the tremendous 5-0 romps against Betis and Antwerp of recent days.
And then everything changed. Buoyed on by a 43,272 strong crowd that never stopped believing, three goals in seven minutes turned the whole thing around and rather than suffer yet another gut-wrenching defeat at the hands of Celta, Barça were instead sitting at the top of the Liga table, pending what happens in the Madrid derby tomorrow.
The goals that changed everything
It all started when Robert Lewandowski, relatively quiet until then, sprung into a high ball lofted forward by João Félix. The Pole’s audacious outstretched foot met it in the air and knocked it in off the crossbar. There was a sudden glimmer of hope…
Mere moments later, Lewandowski did it again. A cheeky pass delivered from the byline by Raphinha followed by a deliciously composed finish and Barça were suddenly back level.
It was unbelievable. Surely Barça couldn’t score a third and go on to win this? They surely could! Gavi laid it on a plate for João Cancelo to score his first goal for the club at the most crucial of moments and that was 3-2!
All of this was in such marvellous contrast to everything that had happened until then. Barça were possessing and passing their way forward as they are wont to do, but tight Celta positioning meant the killer balls into the box weren’t happening.
And to add to the difficulty, Frenkie de Jong had been lost early in the game to an ankle injury.
Instead, Celta were causing all kinds of problems with their counter attack and the bigger chances were generally for the men in light blue shirts. Iago Aspas had already forced a tremendous save from Ter Stegen before, not entirely against the run of play, the visitors took the lead on 19 minutes.
Jørgen Strand Larsen beat the offside trap and placed his strike precisely where not even Ter Stegen was going to reach it. It was the first time this Liga season that Barça had conceded a goal at the Estadi Olimpic.
Celta really should have scored a second when the same move produced three straightforward chances in quick succession. The first two were brilliantly blocked and then De la Torre’s misfired attempt sailed way over the bar.
Andreas Christensen and Oriol Romeu also made particularly critical tackles to keep their side in the game, but with a quarter of an hour left to play, nobody was there to stop Tasos Douvikas from making it 2-0 to the visitors.
Based on what we had seen until then, it looked like game over. There had certainly been more and more urgency in Barça’s football as the clock ticked down, but other than Ronald Araujo’s long-range belter and a couple of frustratingly narrow misses by Ferran Torres, there was little suggestion of what was about to come.
But this is Barça. And Barça never give up. There were still 10 minutes plus injury time still to play. Still time to prevent Rafa Benítez from becoming the first manager ever to win three times in succession away to Barça.
Still time for Lewandowski to score. And score again. Still time for Cancelo to put the icing on the cake of a simply sublime turnaround.
Still time for Barça to produce one of the most brilliant comebacks you are likely to see this season. Or indeed, in any season. What a win!
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