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Celta Vigo 1-2 Barcelona: Match Review

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Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP via Getty Images

One win in nine years. Such was the horrendous record Barcelona held at Estadi Municipal de Balaidos heading into Saturday night’s clash against Celta Vigo in La Liga.

Yet, the team were in dire need of a win to boost their spirits after the 3-3 draw against Granada, especially with the UCL returning midweek. Xavi, thus, opted for an interesting lineup to face the Galician giants on the night with some bold decisions across the field.

Marc-Andre Ter Stegen started in goal with Pau Cubarsi and Ronald Araujo in central defence. Joao Cancelo and Jules Kounde completed the defence, filling in at left and right-back respectively.

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Ilkay Gundogan was given a well-deserved rest in midfield, with Pedri and Frenkie de Jong operating as the interior midfielders on the night. They were joined by Andreas Christensen, who took up the role of a pivot for just the third time this season.

In the final third, Vitor Roque had his first start in the Catalan colours, starting on the left wing. Robert Lewandowski and Lamine Yamal wound up the lineup at centre-forward and right-wing respectively.

Barcelona kicked the game off at Estadi Municipal de Balaidos amidst conditions not very amicable for a game of football. Having a failed drainage system, the field was logged with water and the ball travelled slowly across the grass throughout the ninety minutes.

Forced to adapt to the slower speed of the game, Barcelona thus found it critical to be more accurate with their passes. The initial phase of the game saw the two teams engage in a battle for possession, one that Barcelona won at the beginning.

The first big of the chance, unsurprisingly, fell to Lamine Yamal. The in-form La Masia starlet got the ball near the edge of the area and did not hesitate to pull the trigger. His attempt, although well-curled, did not have enough to get past Guaita’s extended stretch.

Celta Vigo slowly grew into the game after the ten-minute mark. Iago Aspas and Larsen had half-chances in the 12th and 14th minute respectively, but were denied by Ter Stegen and Araujo respectively to keep the scoresheet at 0-0.

Barcelona slowly built into their possession game, with Celta restricted to a few lethal counterattacks. With Pedri and de Jong looking sharp once again, the Blaugranas saw significant improvement in the proportion of vertical passes and had some good through balls wasted by Roque and Lewandowski’s poor first touches.

After a series of half-chances for both sides well spread over the half, Barcelona opened the scoring on the night in the final minute of the first period through Robert Lewandowski. The strike from the Polish international was majestic in every sense of the word, right from his perfectly weighted first touch to the bullet strike that followed. Once again, the assist went to the prodigal Yamal.

Heading into half-time, Xavi’s men boasted of a one-goal lead over an opposition that has tormented them in recent years and a stadium where they have simply struggled to find luck. The only question – could they hold on?

True to their defensive form, they could not. Barely two minutes into the second period, the Azulgranas conceded on Celta’s first attack of the half, allowing Iago Aspas a clear shot on goal. To make matters worse, the ball came off the boot of Jules Kounde, wrong-footing Ter Stegen who was in position to make the save.

Notably, the manager replaced Ronald Araujo with Inigo Martinez at the half-time break, minutes before the goal was conceded.

Raphinha and Ilkay Gundogan replaced Vitor Roque and Andreas Christensen respectively close to the hour mark.

The hosts came close to scoring with a change in the 65th minute but last-ditch defending helped Barcelona prevent the deficit. Meanwhile, Raphinha had a glorious chance at the other end but simply could not find the finish.

Pedri was replaced by Fermin Lopez in the 75th minute.

Joao Cancelo and Lewy combined well in the 81st minute to create a big chance but were denied by the Celta goalkeeper. The hosts’ confidence improved tremendously in the final stretch as they regularly pushed forward in attack, setting up an even final ten minutes.

A 93rd-minute penalty, however, changed the course of the game. Lamine Yamal was fouled in the area, winning the team a spot-kick for which Robert Lewandowski stepped up.

The Pole missed his chance but was fortunate to get a second chance as the goalkeeper was off his line. Stepping up for the second time, he struck gold.

The game finally ended in a 2-1 win, bringing momentum back to the Catalans’ side after a rough 3-3 draw last week. The win at Balaidos may have been controversial, but puts an end to the stadium’s curse on the Blaugranas.

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