In a weekend after Champions League play midweek where FC Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City, and Real Madrid all failed to win, the pressure was on FC Barcelona to impress away from home against Celta de Vigo. A win at the Balaídos would also mean Barça would vault to the top of the La Liga table. Unfortunately for the Catalans the Basque side dominated the first half so completely even a mighty club like Barcelona were unable to come back after a late Marc-André ter Stegen blunder.
Luis Enrique made four changes to the side that came from behind to beat Borussia Mönchengladbach during Champions League play. Javier Mascherano was replaced by Jérémy Mathieu, Andrés Iniesta by Arda Turan, Ivan Rakitić by André Gomes, and Rafinha came in for Paco Alcácer. The remaining seven spots were occupied by the club’s usual strongest side minus one noticeable injured absentee in the form of the greatest footballer of all time, Lionel Messi. Rotation cannot be blamed for the club’s poor performance in the first half.
The match started brightly for Barcelona with Neymar being brought down for a free kick after a strong dribble. His free kick deflected harmlessly for a corner. Barcelona is usually noted as a slow starting side but the opening exchanges belonged to the blaugrana. During the 12th minute Arda and Luis Suárez exchanged some great interplay with one, twos, but Suárez’s shot was stopped. Barcelona’s positive start was short lived.
In the 22nd minute Barcelona lost it’s grip on the match. Marc held onto the ball in the box and tried to play a centering pass to Sergio Busquets. It was just out of his reach and fell to Nemanja Radoja of Celta. He slid the ball to his left and Iago Aspas. Aspas shredded Barcelona’s defense with a through ball to Pione Sisto. Sisto muscled past Jordi Alba and passed the ball into the back of the net to earn himself the first goal of the match.
In the 31st minute Barcelona were undone again. Sergi Gómez denied Suárez in the box and sent a ball past the midway line. Sergio’s control with his head let him down as he passed the ball right into the path of Aspas. Aspas made a thirty yard dribble dumbfounding Gerard Piqué and slotted the ball past ter Stegen.
Moments later Barcelona conceded their third of the night. Jérémy Mathieu made a simple pass to Turan, and he gave it away cheaply. Pablo Hernández fed Aspas to his left but Piqué slide tackled the ball away. The ball fell to Daniel Wass who dribbled towards the box. He looked to find Aspas with a ground cross but Mathieu slid in the way. Unfortunately for the away side he knocked the ball into the back of his own net. Barcelona was shell shocked. In recent memory the club hasn’t produce a poorer first half display.
It would be almost impossible to play worst than they did in the first half. This match was screaming out for a moment of magic for the away side. Without being able to call on Messi, Barcelona turned to the next best thing. Andrés Iniesta replaced Rafinha and took the armband from Sergio at the half. In the 58th minute Neymar won a corner after a chipped ball from Suarez. Neymar took a short corner to Don Andrés who in turn crossed in a beautiful ball. Gerard Piqué rose and headed the ball into the bottom corner of the net. The home side gave away a lifeline to the visiting side.
Iniesta was not done making magic. in the 64th minute he slid a devastating ball into André Gomes in the box. The Portuguese’s legs were taken from him by Sergi Gómez. A penalty was given. Neymar calmly stepped up to the spot. A stutter step followed by a ball passed into the net as Neymar scored the second goal of the night for FC Barcelona.
Barcelona pushed for a third and tying goal. Things were looking bright until the 77th minute happened. Alba made a simple back pass to Marc. He took way too long deciding whom to pass to and instead of finding a teammate, he found the head of Pablo Hernández who in turn found the back of the net. Barcelona were left with 13 minutes and stoppage time to find a goal and an equalizer.
Before Celta scored their fourth goal of the match, Sergio was replaced by Denis Suárez. In the 87th minute Denis won the ball and made a tough dribble into the corner of the box. He crossed the ball to the back post where he found the head of Piqué. The third goal would prove to be a consolation one for the away side.
FC Barcelona were punished for their timid first half display and ended up losing the match three to four. With the loss Barcelona fall to fourth in the La Liga league table behind the likes of Atlético Madrid, Real Marid, and Sevilla.