Sunday, December 5, 2021

Celta Vigo 3-3 Barcelona: Xavi´s challenge evident as Aspas completes comeback

SoccerNews in La Liga 6 Nov 2021

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Barcelona threw away a three-goal lead to underline the issues faced by new coach Xavi as Iago Aspas’ last-gasp strike secured a 3-3 draw for Celta Vigo.

Blaugrana legend Xavi was named as the new coach earlier on Saturday, but interim boss Sergi Barjuan remained in charge for the trip to Balaidos and Barca appeared to be cruising to victory after first-half goals from Ansu Fati, Sergio Busquets and Memphis Depay.

Yet an injury to Fati on the cusp of half-time dented the visitors’ confidence, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s error gifted Aspas a goal to spur Celta on.

Nolito headed home in the 74th minute to set up a grandstand finale and just as it seemed Barca had survived the onslaught, Aspas curled in with the last kick of the game. 

Fati’s quality was on show from the off, and he did brilliantly to keep his balance and curl a wonderful finish between two defenders and over Matias Dituro.

Barca’s second came from a more unlikely source – Busquets curling a superb finish into the bottom-right corner from 20 yards out – before Depay made it three with an excellent header from Jordi Alba’s cross.

Fati’s game was cut short just shy of half-time, the winger pulling up and clutching his left thigh after trying to race clear of Celta’s defence.

The offside flag came to Barca’s rescue when Thiago Galhardo slotted in, though there was no such reprieve two minutes later as Ter Stegen fumbled Javi Galan’s effort, with Aspas on hand to tuck in.

Hit by injuries to Eric Garcia and Nico Gonzalez, Barca wilted, with Nolito seeing a goal disallowed for handball before he directed a brilliant header beyond Ter Stegen.

Frenkie de Jong hit the crossbar as Barca tried to put the game out of reach, but it was to no avail and, in the 96th minute, Aspas found the bottom-right corner to snatch a share of the spoils and leave Xavi with plenty to ponder.

What does it mean? This is no quick fix

Ronald Koeman was not to blame for all of Barca’s problems, but his successor has got plenty of pieces to pick up. Barca will just hope Xavi’s legendary status buys him the time required.

Barca were not helped by injuries, but the way they capitulated will be of great concern to Xavi. They were unable to keep the ball in the second half, in very un-Barca like fashion, managing just 40.5 per cent of possession, and the Blaugrana are now without a win in four league matches, sitting ninth, eight points adrift of leaders Real Sociedad.

Aspas at it again

Aspas, who missed a good chance early on but was at his clinical best in the second half, has now been involved in 12 goals in 14 LaLiga appearances against Barcelona (nine goals and three assists), scoring in six of his seven games against them in the competition at Balaidos.

More injury woe for Fati

Fati is one of Barca’s great hopes for the future, and has proved himself a worthy heir of Lionel Messi’s number 10 shirt.

The 19-year-old’s day could hardly have started better, as he scored his third LaLiga goal of the season from what was just his 11th attempt in the competition. However, having only just returned from a long injury lay-off, it appears the Spain forward now faces another spell on the sidelines. 

What’s next?

A home meeting with city rivals Espanyol will be Xavi’s first game in charge of Barca after the international break, while Celta host Villarreal.

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