It proved to be an emotional day all round at Camp Nou on Saturday as Deportivo La Coruna pulled off a stunning comeback to draw 2-2 at Barcelona and stave off relegation in Xavi’s final La Liga game.
The talismanic Xavi, a cornerstone of his club’s Liga dominance in the past decade, revealed on Thursday that he will join Al-Sadd of Qatar at the end of the season, but his farewell was not greeted by a quintessential Barca display as the newly crowned champions threw away a two-goal lead.
Despite Xavi having the stage from a sentimental perspective, Lionel Messi was undeniably the star of the show for the first hour, giving Barca the lead with a header after just five minutes.
The Argentina ace doubled his tally for the day with his 56th goal of the season across all competitions – a tap-in just shy of the hour mark putting the visitors on course for relegation.
However, Lucas Perez’s 67th-minute strike gave Deportivo hope and they continued to battle away in the hope of completing off a great escape.
Diogo Salomao then lashed home an equaliser with 14 minutes to go, sparking scenes of jubilation on the Deportivo bench as Victor Sanchez’s men secured their top-flight status at the expense of Eibar and Almeria – who also finished on 35 points.
Xavi was unsurprisingly the centre of attention before kick-off, as the Barca fans held aloft a huge banner in tribute to the legendary midfielder, giving the 35-year-old a grand send-off.
And Barca appeared to be spurred on by the atmosphere created by their supporters, as they opened the scoring early on.
Rafinha pounced on a half-hearted punch by Fabricio and chipped an inviting delivery to the back post, with Messi arriving late to nod past the helpless goalkeeper.
Things should have got worse for Deportivo 13 minutes later, but on this occasion Fabricio proved a vital last line of defence, tipping away Messi’s 25-yard effort before thwarting Pedro from the rebound.
Barca continued to dominate proceedings, though clear-cut chances were by no means commonplace.
Xavi look destined to mark his Camp Nou farewell with a goal in the 42nd minute, only to see his 20-yard effort deflect wide after the goal had seemingly opened up for him.
The second half began with Barca looking to increase their urgency and they were rewarded for their improvement with 59 minutes on the clock.
Neymar raced through on goal and unselfishly prodded a pass to his right for Messi, who was left with the simplest of finishes.
But Deportivo gained a lifeline eight minutes later, Lucas finding the top-left corner in emphatic fashion from the edge of the area.
And shortly after, what had initially looked nothing more than a pipe dream came true, as Salomao smashed a half-volley into the bottom-right corner after Barca failed to clear a free-kick.
Barca pushed for a late winner, but the only incident to bring the home fans to their feet was the departure of Xavi.
The Qatar-bound midfielder was substituted four minutes from time to thunderous applause, bringing an iconic era to an emotional close almost 17 years on from his debut versus Mallorca in August 1998, while Deportivo celebrated their incredible escape.
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