Barça celebrated La Liga 2014/15 with the final game of the season against Deportivo de La Coruña and Camp Nou paid homage to a legend. Xavi Hernández played his 505th and final league match for the club , his 765th official game in total, and all looked set for a Barça victory when Leo Messi scored twice to make it 2-0 after an hour. However, Deportivo fought back to equalize and earn the point that saves them from relegation.
With two big finals coming up Luis Enrique rested most of his usual starters except for Messi and Neymar. Opportunities were given to lesser-used players such as Bartra, Sergi Roberto, Rafinha and Pedro. There was even a debut for Thomas Vermaelen after a season on the sidelines with injury while third-choice keeper Jordi Masip was given a chance between the posts. There was still no place for either Montoya or Douglas with Adriano given the right-back spot, perhaps a little strange as Adriano is more normally used at left-back but this position was given to Jeremy Mathieu.
Depor were the uninvited guest at the party and they began showing little sign of making things easy with a compact defensive 4-5-1. However, Barça looked in the mood to put on a show with Neymar, Messi and Rafinha all ready to demonstrate their extraordinary skill. Rafinha was particularly impressive, assisting Messi for the opening goal after just five minutes. The move began with Xavi passing out of defence to Messi who turned well before sending Mathieu galloping away up the left. Mathieu’s cross was palmed away by Depor keeper Fabricio but the ball came to Rafinha on the right and he skipped past Laure and chipped a delightful cross to the far post where Messi arrived to head home.
Things weren’t looking good for Depor and only the linesman’s flag and Fabricio prevented the Galicians going further behind. Messi had the ball in the net again in the 14th minute only to be incorrectly called offside from Neymar’s pass . Three minutes later Fabricio made an incredible double save to deny Messi and Pedro. Barça were looking very slick and there were moments of extreme skill such as Neymar’s sombrero on Laure and Rafinha’s nutmeg on Dominguez, and Neymar even tried an audacious overhead kick that flew straight at Fabricio.
However, after a splendid opening spell the intensity from Barça began to drop. The chances dried up as Depor continued to defend deep. There was very little from the visitors going forward but Vermaelen was impressive when needed and Masip only had a couple of crosses to deal with. As the first half neared its end Xavi tried a shot that was deflected wide and there was a neat back-heel from Rafinha that Messi couldn’t react to, then on the stroke of half-time Depor created their first chance but Cavaleiro poked Lucas’s cross wide of the far post.
Xavi demonstrated his class at the start of the second half with a clever chip into the area towards Rafinha but Fabricio came out quickly to kick clear. However, there was a definite lack of bite to Barça after the break and the only consolation was that Depor began to push further forward in the hope of an equalizer. Just before the hour the visitors’ back line got caught out when two headers forward from Mathieu and Pedro sent Neymar scampering towards goal, when Fabricio came towards him the Brazilian unselfishly passed to his right for Messi to score his second with a simple tap-in.
With the score at 2-0 Barça completely eased up. The job was done, and to be fair the job had been completed last week at the Calderón. Now it seemed that it was just a matter of playing out time and Douglas was brought on to cheers from the crowd and quickly impressed with a cushioned volley pass from Masip’s kick and then by nearly finding Pedro after beating a defender inside the area.
However, Depor sensed their opportunity as Barça reorganised in defence. Adriano moved to left-back with Mathieu moving to the left sided centre-back and after a simple move from Depor on that side the ball bounced off Mathieu to Lucas who hit an unstoppable shot past Masip into the top corner.
Before the goal Munir had been warming up to come on but now Luis Enrique brought on Mascherano in place of Bartra who appeared to be slightly injured. Depor now pushed forward more and with a little help from referee Clos Gomez they achieved their miracle relegation escape by grabbing an equalizer. Clos Gomez gave two generous free-kicks for handball against Adriano and Mathieu, and from the first Medunjanin culed a shot that skimmed the top of the crossbar, then from the second Medunjanin fired twice against Neymar before Salamao cracked the loose ball firmly past Masip.
There was still twenty minutes to play but Barça found it impossible to turn on again. Rafinha showed the most intention but Depor were far the more intense team now. Camp Nou was waiting for the third Barça substitution which came in the 85th minute when Iniesta came on for Xavi. The crowd rose in unison to applaud a career that has spanned an incredible 17 seasons. It was an emotional moment and Xavi went to the bench with tears in his eyes. The party mood returned to celebrate the league title but the biggest explosion of joy came from the visitors who survived to the end despite a scare when Adriano volleyed wide.
Both sides celebrated at the end but when the visitors had left the scene Xavi collected the league trophy as a fitting end to his league career. There were speeches from Luis Enrique, Iniesta and Xavi and everybody went home happy. Barça end the league on 94 points, two above Madrid who beat Getafe 7-3. Claudio Bravo wins the Zamaro goalkeeping trophy while Cristiano Ronaldo takes the Pichichi with 48 goals. Poor old Ronaldo bagged another hat-trick today but he couldn’t match Messi’s 50 goals from 2011/12. Ronaldo’s been in Spain now for six seasons and he only has one Liga to his name, the same number now as Masip, Vermaelen and Douglas, three players who have never actually won a league game! Finally, it was also good to see a hand-shake and smile between Luis Enrique and Messi during the celebrations, hopefully putting an end to all the speculation about their supposed dispute.
Barça: Masip 6; Adriano 6, Bartra 6.5 (Mascherano m70, 6), Vermaelen 7 (Douglas m63, 6), Mathieu 6; Rafinha 7.5, Sergi Roberto 6.5, Xavi 7 (Iniesta m85, –); Messi 8, Pedro 6.5, Neymar 7.5.
Deportivo: Fabricio Agosto; Laure, Lopo, Sidnei, Canella (Medunjanin m38); Salamao, Bergantiños, Borges, Dominguez, Cavaleiro; Lucas Perez.
Goals: m5 Messi 1-0, m59 Messi 2-0, m67 Lucas 2-1, m76 Salamao 2-2.
Yellow cards: m58 Dominguez, m75 Mathieu, m93 Laure, m95 Medunjanin.