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Barcelona will be heading to Japan on the back of three consecutive draws after a 2-0 lead ended up becoming a 2-2 draw on a lively afternoon of football in the Catalan capital. A Leo Messi free-kick and a thunderbolt from Ivan Rakitic put the home side in clear command, but the visitors ended up having the final say with two goals in the last quarter of an hour.
Visiting coach Victor Sánchez raised plenty of eyebrows by deploying an attack minded 4-3-1-2 formation from the start. But such tactics are always risky at the Camp Nou and the initial chances fell to the home side. Sandro, standing in for the injured Neymar, set up Suárez after five minutes, shortly before Messi laid up Iniesta. Both those chances went begging, as did a well-struck free kick by the Argentinian, before Claudio Bravo was seriously tested for the first time by Jonathan on the quarter hour mark. The game was off to a lively start, with both sides looking to strike early.
Barça gradually gained more and more control of the possession, forcing their opponents further and further back. But although most of the play was in and around the visitors’ area, the Galicians were wise to everything that Barça had planned. There would be little more than half-chances until a piece of Messi magic finally broke the deadlock. A free kick from 25 metres out was swiped home with all the class of a Balon d’Or candidate, and bang! Barça were a goal to the good after 39 minutes.
Rakitic extends lead
Barça continued to press after the break, but with Deportivo always leaving three men in advanced positions, there was a constant danger of being caught on the counter attack. Suárez did find the net after 56 minutes, only to see the flag go up for offside. It was a close call, but six minutes later and Depor keeper Lux was beaten again, and this time it counted. Ivan Rakitic pumped one of his trademark strikes from well outside the area and what a pump it was! The perfect way to celebrate being named Croatian sportsman of year, and Barça were now 2-0 up.
With 15 minutes to go it was Depor’s turn to get called for offside as Cardoso struck the bar and Lucas Pérez nodded in the rebound. Two minutes later, however, and the same player got the better of both Mathieu and Bravo to narrow the gap to a single goal and set things up for a pulsating finale.
Cardoso at one end and Alves at the other both struck close as the tension mounted in the Camp Nou terraces. And then disaster struck. With just four minutes to go, Bergantiños received the ball on the edge of the area and swung the ball around Bravo and in at the far post to get Deportivo back level.
If the drama had been intense before, now it had reached fever pitch. Barça threw all they had at the Depor defence in search of a winner, but not even at this stage were the Galicians happy to settle for a draw. There was nervy action at either end before the referee finally blew his whistle to confirm that Barça had dropped the first home points of the Liga season.
Luis Enrique had been right to express his concern about this fixture. It wasn’t the result he or anyone at FCB wanted, but it’s one that is going to have to be put in the past as attention now turns to the trip to Japan and the Club World Cup.
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