In a raucous afternoon of football in La Liga, Barcelona threw away a three-goal lead against Celta Vigo to draw 3-3.
In all honesty, the first half of the game was going superbly for Barcelona. They had delivered a peformance full of the bold style we have come to associate with the Blaugrana at their best. The players were moving quickly off the ball, the ball itself moving even faster as they zipped passes all around the pitch and of course they were 0-3 up at a ground where they usuall struggle.
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A team loaded with youngsters saw two teenagers deliver the best performances of the half in Ansu Fati and Nico Gonzalez. The former opened the scoring with a delightful cut inside off the left and a rasping early shot high into the far corner of the net. An unstoppable goal and the teenager’s third since his return from injury.
Nico, meanwhile, made light of Pedri’s absence with a commanding display in the middle of the park. He wanted possession, welcoming the Celta pressure before moving beyond it either with a pass or a dribble.
Nico González's first half by numbers vs. Celta Vigo:
15 passes attempted
14 passes completed
8 duels won
4 take-ons completed
3 fouls won
Another La Masia graduate shining bright. ✨ pic.twitter.com/txCYSz2w2i
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 6, 2021
With the Balaidos not shy in giving him abuse (his father Fran is a legend for Celta’s rivals Deportivo) it would have been easy for Nico to hide but he seemed emboldened by the hostility. The youngster set-up the second goal with a lovely run and pass back to Sergio Busquets and had a hand in the third as Jordi Alba crossed for Memphis to score.
At 0-3 up and playing in a style that is unmistakably Barcelona, one could have forgiven culers the world over for getting a little carried away. Xavi has been appointed the manager and will take over starting Monday. The good times were back, surely?
Well, let’s wait and see. Because the remnants of the Koeman and Bertomeu-era misery crept into the game with a familiar sense of dread accompanying them and the second-half was 40 minutes of sorrow and about 5 minutes of decent play.
In truth the game turned in the first-half when Ansu Fati injured his hamstring chasing after a pass in behind. At half-time both he and Eric Garcia (another victim of muscle injuries) were subbed out. And as they have done all season, Barcelona really suffered for Ansu’s absence. His pace, intelligent movement and tendency to shoot give teeth to what can otherwise be a gummy Barcelona attack.
5': Celta Vigo 0-1 Barcelona
18': Celta Vigo 0-2 Barcelona
34': Celta Vigo 0-3 Barcelona
52': Celta Vigo 1-3 Barcelona
74': Celta Vigo 2-3 Barcelona
90+6': Celta Vigo 3-3 Barcelona
Barcelona let a three-goal lead slip right at the death.
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) November 6, 2021
It got worse as Nico Gonzalez also had to go off with a muscle injury in the second period. The two best performers from that opening half both lost to injury. And without them the football began to unravel. Where they were dominating the ball suddenly they couldn’t keep hold of it to save their lives. Celta pulled one back, then another, they had goals disallowed for offside, it was bleak.
The game reached the 94th minute, 95th. The last of the initially allotted minutes. Then in the 96th minute, Iago Aspas did what felt inevitable and hammer home a simply stunning equaliser. It was a beautiful goal and no less than Celta deserved, but for Barcelona it was a signal of the size of the task that awaits Xavi.
Iago Aspas' game by numbers vs. Barcelona:
7 touches in opp. box
6 duels won
6 chances created
5 fouls won
2 shots on target
90+5:36 was the time of his equalising goal. 😱 pic.twitter.com/Y08aXKSfWv
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 6, 2021
This Barcelona team just does not know how to manage games, they have forgotten themselves. They used to be masters of the art, but now they fold like cheap paper whenever anyone applies any pressure.
Time and again Barcelona would get the ball and immediately drive at Celta on the break, which is a fine thing to do if you have, say, Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembélé. Barcelona had neither in that second-half, and surely the gameplan had to be retaining possession and slowing the game down to blunt Celta. Out of order, this game birthed chaos, and instead of bringing some order back to it, Barca bizarrely embraced the chaos and that led to their doom.