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Just a few days ago, Barça’s Champions League hopes were hanging on a miracle, while their Liga destiny was back in their own hands. But the miracle comeback against PSG has been followed by a disappointing 2-1 defeat at struggling Deportivo La Coruña, meaning Real Madrid can now move back to the top of the league table with a win against Real Betis later tonight.
Luis Enrique made five changes to the team that had made history four days earlier, two of those forced in the cases of Rafinha and Neymar Jr, the latter replaced in the frontline by Arda Turan.
Depor strike first
There was no need for Barça to score four goals in this game, let alone six, and there was a lack of urgency to the proceedings in the first half. They were back to their patient waiting game and as long as there was no score, Deportivo were happy enough with things as they stood. Understandable, considering they conceded eight in this fixture last season.
With a period of torrential rain not helping them to get into the flow, a Luis Suárez header and a skied opportunity for Andre Gomes were the best Barça had mustered before the first moment of true excitement came in the 35th minute, when Depor keeper German Lux managed to intercept what would have been a simple tap-in for Luis Suárez off a Sergi Roberto assist.
But just when Barça’s game was finally clicking into place, the only goal of the half came at the other end – the outcome of a corner after Ter Stegen had turned away Joselu’s powerful hooked drive with a spectacular save. Neither the Barça keeper nor two of his defenders were able to deal with the ensuing corner, and Joselu was there to thump it home.
The circumstances were nothing like as adverse as they had been against PSG, but nevertheless, Barça were going to have switch back into comeback mode for the second 45 minutes.
And before the Riazor crowd had even settled into their seats after the break, the sides were level. Luis Suárez latched onto a stray ball and slammed it past Lux, and that was the Uruguayan’s 21st goal of the Liga season.
But whatever Pepe Mel has been doing since taking over at Depor, it seems to be working. Unfazed by the goal, the Galicians created as much danger as the Catalans for the third quarter of the game. Joselu’s blast that resulted in a fairly routine save for Ter Stegen was probably the best of the respective sides’ chances.
Barça never managed to get their full grip on the game, and Depor were rewarded for their pluck with goal number two on 74 minutes. Like the first, it came from a corner, with Álex Bergantiños rising to head home.
Barça needed to call on the spirit of Wednesday night, but there are some days when everything goes right and other days when they simply don’t.
They piled on the late pressure to no avail. Luis Suárez was alone in the kind of position where he’s rarely known to fail, but Lux managed to get a foot in the way. There was hope in the dying minutes when Leo Messi prepared to take a free kick from the perfect position. It sailed narrowly over and Riazor celebrated as if their side had scored.
Indeed, they probably should have done in the dying seconds. Faycal Fajr was free on his own. Ter Stegen saved the first shot and Jordi Alba appeared from nowhere to clear the second off the line.
That was a let-off for Barça, but ultimately it made no difference. Three crucial points have gone begging in La Coruña, in a defeat that brings a gloomy end to a wonderful week, not to mention Barcelona’s unbeaten run of 19 league matches.
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