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Leo Messi had several chances but was left searching for answers / MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

FC Barcelona wanted desperately to get back to winning and Lionel Messi was looking to make history at Camp Nou, but excellent goalkeeping from Celta’s Sergio Álvarez and some unlucky breaks saw the Catalans surrender their lead at the top of the league table.

The first half ended without any scoring from either side, although several chances either just missed or were thwarted with solid goalkeeping at both ends of the pitch.

Neymar had the first go, heading straight to Álvarez in the 8th minute, and unleashing a rocket from 23 metres just a few minutes later that hit the crossbar. He also had another opportunity just before the half, but his low shot was tipped wide.

Near-misses

Messi, looking to break Telmo Zarra’s all time La Liga scoring record, had three great chances in four minutes, but could not find the net. In the 30th he one-timed a give-and-go with Neymar but was denied by a diving Álvarez. Neymar fed Messi again two minutes later, but the shot was deflected by sliding defender Jonathon Castro, sending the ball high off the bar. And in the 34th, Luis Suárez sent a beautiful cross from the left to Messi closing in, but the number two scorer in Liga history headed it over.

Suárez, meanwhile, had another solid outing in just his second Liga match back. He exhibited nice touch around the area and had a hand in several of Barça’s near-misses.

Celta played aggressively on defence and looked content to contain Barça and search for the odd counter. Their only real chance saw Nolito shoot high on a direct free kick from 18m.

Looking for an opening

The second half opened with Neymar hitting the bar yet again. Then just a couple of minutes later, Celta silenced the Camp Nou crowd. An innocent looking goal kick was forwarded up to Nolito who passed backwards with his heel to a breaking Joaquín Larrivey, the Celta forward hitting it just out of the reach of Claudio Bravo, neatly tucking it inside the right post for a 1-0 lead.

Celta predictably stayed back to protect the lead, and Barça looked set to control the ball for the remainder of the match. Midway through the half, Suárez had a point blank shot go straight to the keeper. Later on, he was brought down just outside the area, but Messi’s direct kick shot too far over the wall and into the stands.

The clock was winding down and Barça seemed to be closing in on the tying goal. Celta came close to extending the lead on another counter, but Nolito’s opportunity was kick saved by Claudio Bravo.

In the waning minutes, Messi sent a curling free kick almost square off the bar near the upper right corner. It was Barça’s fourth encounter with the woodwork on the evening. In the 84th, Suárez had perhaps the best shot of the day. He fired a screaming bullet that looked poised to find the net, but once again the flying Celta keeper came out of nowhere to get just enough of it and preserve the final score. Barça only had two more dangerous opportunities, though neither one generated a shot on goal.


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