Ernesto Valverde was happy to see his side pass a tricky Eibar examination as Barcelona just about saw off their 10-man opponents ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League test with Chelsea.
The Catalans left the Estadio Ipurua with a first win in three league attempts on Saturday thanks to goals from Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba.
The win saw Barca equal a league record set when Pep Guardiola was manager in 2011, making it 31 La Liga games unbeaten.
Suarez opened the scoring against the run of play 16 minutes in, before Alba made certain of the points at the death after the in-form hosts had seen Fabian Orellana dismissed in the 66th minute for petulantly punching the ball away, earning himself a second yellow.
“We had to win,” said Valverde following the 2-0 victory. “Eibar pushed us very hard and were at a very high level, and I attribute our suffering to that. They were on an incredible streak of their own so the win has double merit.”
Victory stretched their lead at the top of La Liga to 10 points although second-placed Atletico Madrid can cut it back to seven with victory at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
And even though Barca have their first-leg trip to Stamford Bridge in the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday, Valverde insists he cared only for three points domestically.
“This match was very important for us after two draws in the league,” he said. “I don’t care much about Chelsea, our objective was to win again. In Ipurua everybody suffers, nobody wins easy, but Tuesday is another story.”
Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba scored to see Barcelona ease to a tricky 2-0 win against in-form Eibar.
It was Suarez who opened the scoring early in the first half, a timely goal as it had been Jose Luis Mendilibar’s side that had begun brightly, and they could count themselves unlucky to fall behind.
The visitors were of course always dangerous, especially on the break, but the game was in the balance until its turning point, Fabian Orellana sent off for petulantly punching the ball away in the 65th minute, earning him a second yellow card.
Philippe Coutinho, Aleix Vidal and Messi combined to set up Jordi Alba for a second Barca barely deserved at the death.
Here, we analyse the performance of the Uruguayan.
Goals – 1
Assists – 0
Shots – 2
Shots on target – 1
Touches – 43
Passes – 29
Key passes – 2
Dribbles – 3
Dispossessed – 0
With Lionel Messi supplying the ammo, Luis Suarez was Eibar’s assassin. In a game in which the hosts performed stoically in the face of their illustrious opponents, the Uruguayan was a constant threat and outlet for the Catalans. While mercurial Messi sat deep and orchestrated Barca’s attacks, he always found a willing runner in his strike partner, who caused the home defence problems throughout. Sublime in the opening 45, he did struggle to affect proceedings in the second half, but with his deadly movement, he didn’t afford Eibar’s defenders a moment’s peace.
Movement – While Messi was the conductor, Suarez was the melody, crucially putting Barca ahead as Eibar had the visitors dancing to their tune for large parts of the game. Intelligently raced onto Messi’s delightful throughball and then composed himself, finishing well to open the scoring.
Selflessness – Was at the heart of everything good they produced, bringing team-mates into play well. He tried to return the favour for the Argentine in the first half but after Suarez set him up, Messi slammed his effort against the post.
Passing – He doesn’t have many flaws, but his pass accuracy in the Basque Country was pretty pathetic. Just 75.9 per cent of his passes found a team-mate. Only goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s (65.5) was worse, while Paulinho’s was also 75.9
Finishing – One shot on target and just one off isn’t drastically bad, especially with that one on target resulting in a goal, but in an even game that Barca were never fully in control of, Suarez was rash when set up by Messi in the second half. A second goal would have likely killed the game off.
6th min CHANCE: Lionel Messi slips through Suarez inside the Eibar box. He lays the ball off for the onrushing Jordi Alba but his effort is blocked
16th min GOAL: Picked out excellently by Messi, Suarez races onto a telepathic pass from his fellow South American. There’s still work to do but he rounds goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic and slides in the opener
37th min CHANCE: Suarez, causing havoc down the left, races onto possession and commits Dmitrovic again. He turns and tees up Messi, who slams it against the far post
52nd min CHANCE: Good work from Messi down the right, jigging his way into the box. He squares for Suarez who blazes over horribly when he should do better
Ultimately, world-class players always make the difference and Suarez is one of the best in the business. Took his goal with aplomb, at a time when Barca were on the rack, and the player himself may have been a little short on confidence, having not found the net in his previous three games.
Faded in the second half in less than perfect conditions in northeastern Spain, but was crucial to Barcelona’s victory. While he may be a sumptuous player, Suarez is also a battler and he worked tirelessly as his side were made to scrap for the three points.
All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com
Luis Suarez’s early goal helped La Liga leaders Barcelona return to winning ways ahead of their Champions League clash against Chelsea with a 2-0 victory over Eibar.
Barca had been held to draws by Espanyol and Getafe in their previous two league matches and were up against an Eibar side which thrashed high-flying Sevilla 5-1 in their last home outing.
However, Ernesto Valverde’s men avoided a similar fate at Ipurua with Suarez putting them ahead in the 16th minute before Jordi Alba scored late on.
Here, we rate the Barcelona side after their 2-0 win.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen 6 – Few saves to make but his distribution was better than Busquets today. Eibar effort which smacked the bar he would have stopped anyway.
Sergi Roberto 6 – A reliable performance from the right back. Offered good attacking width and his dribbling into the half spaces was superb.
Gerard Pique 7 – Barca were way off the pace but despite the urgency of Eibar, the hosts were never really able to fashion a clear-cut opportunity. Rock solid and made a massive 14 clearances, one more than the entire Barca team combined.
Samuel Umtiti 7 – Hard not to be impressed with the centre-half. Repeatedly shut down Eibar attacks with serene composure and was just a tower of strength as he has been all season.
Jordi Alba 6 – Initially couldn’t get a grip on the Eibar livewire Fabian Orellana but going forward his gas tank is never ending. Boundless energy and great chemistry with Messi. Sealed the three points with a very tidy finish on his weaker foot.
Paulinho 3 – One Twitter user summed up the Brazilian’s performance best when after the sending off he Tweeted: “Considering Paulinho’s performance today, it’s 10 vs 10 now.” His technical inadequacy is leaving him badly exposed and he was undoubtedly Barca’s worst performer. His form has dropped off a cliff recently and surely he won’t be starting against Chelsea next week?!
Sergio Busquets 5 – Careless passing from arguably the world’s best No6. His passing accuracy sat around the 86 percent mark, down from his season average of 90 percent, which is a bigger drop off than the numbers indicate. Was fortunate not to concede a penalty as well.
Ivan Rakitic 5 – No one in Barca’s midfield covered themselves in glory and the Croatian in particular lacked composure on the ball. His retention under pressure was poor by his standards and he struggled to have any discernible impact.
Andres Iniesta 5 – The narrative was Coutinho’s arrival would allow him some rest in La Liga but the Brazilian started on the bench and Iniesta ended up being hammered by Eibar’s relentless pressing. The Spaniard was even booked after the break – a rare occurrence hallmarking an even rarer off day.
Lionel Messi 7 – Messi has a myriad of sponsors but perhaps it’s time DHL have a word because his delivery is simply sublime. Didn’t impact the game to his usual high standards but there were two precision passes – one for the opener and one which ended in a wrongly flagged offside – which were otherworldly. He smacked the post in the first half, too, the 16th time the Argentine has hit the woodwork in La Liga this season.
Luis Suarez 8 – Barca’s man of the match. The Uruguayan was much more than his 16th minute opener – an expertly taken goal – as he sold more dummies to the keeper than Mothercare – four to be exact. He looked sharp in all facets of his game and has now plundered 20 goals for Barca in all competitions this season, the sixth season in a row he’s managed this feat.
That Messi and Suarez chemistry. Brilliant pass and brilliant finish. pic.twitter.com/zlL2oTuXx3— ali (@zeealih) February 17, 2018
Coutinho 8 – Came on for Iniesta just past the hour and was a real breath of fresh air. Wonderful cross-field pass which led to the second.
Vidal 7 – Could have scored late on but did create Alba’s goal with a brilliant low cross into the box.
Semedo N/A – Was brought on in the last minute for Roberto