Barça came unstuck tonight in Vigo, ripped apart by a splendid Celta side that demonstrated a greater desire for the victory. Barça transfer target Nolito curled in a brilliant goal in the 26th minute to put the Galician side in front before Iago Aspas doubled the lead four minutes later after a mistake by Gerard Piqué. Aspas grabbed his second of the night ten minutes after half-time to put Celta three up. Neymar Jr pulled back a consolation goal but Celta substitute John Guidetti completed Barça’s misery by making it 4-1 before the end.
This morning Jordi Alba pulled out of the squad which meant Jeremy Mathieu was employed at left back while Piqué returned at centre-back and Sergi Roberto was prefered over Ivan Rakitic in midfield. The rest of the team was as expected but right from the start it was clear that it was going to be a difficult night as Celta poured on the pressure in the first ten minutes.
Barça survived the early wave of pressure and Iniesta and Messi began to look for holes in Celta’s rearguard. Messi and Neymar both had shots saved by Celta keeper Sergio Alvarez and the Argentinian had another good effort blocked. The game might have turned out very differently had Barça taken one of these early chances, but as things were Celta took advantage to strike first. Mallo advanced up the right and sent a long cross that arrived to Nolito on the far side of the penalty area. The angle wouldn’t have been good for most players but Nolito is a master from this position. He curled his shot over Ter Stegen’s leap, the ball dropping in off the far post after grazing the keeper’s fingertips.
Barça hardly had time to react to the blow when Celta struck again. Piqué got caught in possession near the centre-spot, Nolito headed the ball through for Aspas to chase and the Celta centre-forward finished with a classy Messi-style scoop over Ter Stegen. Barça were groggy and a couple of minutes later Augusto might have added a third but skied his effort from ten yards.
Barça tried to raise the rhythm but Celta were fired up even more by the goals and their defence fought aggressively for every ball. Iniesta managed to thread one pass through to Neymar on the right but by cutting inside one challenge the Brazilian allowed another defender to get back and block his shot.
The second half began with chances at both ends but Neymar and Aspas sent their shots wide. Then in the 53rd minute, Iniesta danced into the area before squaring to Messi who looked sure to score but pulled his shot against the post. Piqué then headed over from close range and Messi fired a volley from the left straight at the keeper.
Barça had to commit men forward but Celta took advantage in the 56th minute with a breakaway goal following a Barça corner. Alvarez punch the ball clear and it was then played on to Aspas who after flicking the ball past Alves, set off on a direct line towards goal. nobody could catch him and the striker again beat Ter Stegen, this time with a low shot inside the far post.
Luis Enriqué tried to cause a reaction by bringing on Munir for Sergi Roberto and reverting to the 4-2-3-1 seen against Levante, with Messi playing behind Munir, Suárez and Neymar.The finishing all night was below par and Munir and Neymar sent efforts wide. When the shots were at goal Alvarez got in the way of everything, stopping one from Munir and making probably his best stop of the night from Messi in the 63rd minute. Rakitic was then brought on for Busquets to form the double pivot with Iniesta but the changes did little to improve things.
Barça finally pulled a goal back in the 80th minute when Messi found Neymar’s run with a quick free-kick and the Brazilian controlled before turning the ball past Alvarez. Munir then sent a chance wide which might have set up an exciting finish but all hope was ended in the 83rd minute when Guidetti fired home from Mallo’s cross.
Celta: Sergio Alvarez, Mallo, Cabral, Sergi Gomez, Jonny; Radoja (Pablo Hernández m76), Augusto, Wass (Planas m85); Orellano, Aspas (Guidetti m78), Nolito..
Barça: Ter Stegen 5; Alves 5.5, Piqué 5, Mascherano 4.5, Mathieu 4.5; Sergi Roberto 5.5 (Munir m58, 5), Busquets 4.5 (Rakitic m68, 5.5), Iniesta 6; Messi 5.5, Suárez 5, Neymar 5.5.
Goals: m26 Nolito 1-0, m30 Aspas 2-0, m56 Aspas 3-0, m80 Neymar 3-1, m83 Guidetto 4-1.
Yellow cards: m23 Busquets, m79 Mallo, m89 Suárez, m89 Sergi Gomez