Barcelona saw important points in La Liga’s title race drain away as Lionel Messi’s superb free-kick was levelled by Argentine striker Jonathan Calleri’s penalty for dogged Las Palmas in a 1-1 draw, ramping up the pressure ahead of Sunday’s summit meeting with Atletico Madrid.
In a patchy performance by Barca, superstar Messi’s set-piece from the edge of the area in the 21st minute was the highlight. The relegation-threatened hosts gave everything and their determination was rewarded in the 48th minute when Calleri stepped up from 12 yards after a tug from a corner by right-back Sergi Roberto.
Here are our ratings from Estadio Gran Canaria as Las Palmas became only the sixth La Liga team this season to deny Barca victory:
Marc-Andre ter Stegen – 6: Precious little to do, except pick the ball out of his net. Calleri’s penalty was Las Palmas’ only shot on target.
Sergi Roberto – 5: Made little impression as an attacking force and appeared to be guilty of giving the penalty away for a tug on Matias Aguirregaray. With Portugal right-back Nelson Semedo out injured until next month, needs to be better.
Thomas Vermaelen – 7: Has surely given manager Ernesto Valverde food for thought with another assured display. Only starting defender not to be booked and his two interceptions was the joint most for Barca.
Samuel Umtiti – 5: This has been a troubled week for Barca’s previous rock at the back. Repeated the absent-mindedness witnessed for Portu’s opener in the 6-1 beating of Girona at the weekend, this time the only repercussion being a booking. Form of Vermaelen is a worry for him.
Lucas Digne – 5: Delivered a few poor crosses, was booked and penalty could have been for a handball.
Aleix Vidal – 4: Rarely looks up to the standard demanded of a Barca player. A pass accuracy of 68.2 per cent was unforgivable as he cracked under Las Palmas’ press. Was no surprise when he was the first player hooked.
Sergio Busquets – 6: Played higher up the pitch in response to the host’s positive attitude. Did look uncharacteristically cumbersome a few times, although his tally for tackles and interceptions wasn’t bettered by any Barca player.
Paulinho – 5: This was a game to forget for the Brazil centre midfielder as he moved back into the XI. Made little impression on or off the ball before being substituted past the hour mark. Could even have been dismissed before half-time for a second booking.
Andres Iniesta – 6: There were flashes of brilliance from the Spain great, one curling shot only just missed. Positive displays of replacements Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele show the 33-year-old’s time as a guaranteed starter is fast coming to an end.
Lionel Messi – 7: Even on an off day by his standards, was still comfortably Barca’s best player. His 21st-minute free-kick was utterly sublime and made him the most-prolific scorer via this method (four) across Europe’s top-five leagues in 2017/18.
Luis Suarez – 5: Was left to curse a rare under-hit pass from Messi in the early running. Had desperately searched in vain for a booking against Girona to miss this game, and didn’t want to commit too much with a possible ban against Atleti hanging over him.
4 - Leo Messi is the player who has scored the most free kick goals this season (four, one more than Neymar and Fekir). Unique pic.twitter.com/fiO3c6w7kt— OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 1, 2018
Philippe Coutinho- 6: Has magic in his boots, a slide-rule pass soon after coming on worth the price of admission alone. But couldn’t quite force the breakthrough.
Ivan Rakitic – 6: Would have dreamed of a better way to make his 200th appearance for Barcelona.
Ousmane Dembele – 6: Not everything he tried came off – not by a long shot. Yet his pace and desire to make things happen are things Barca should increasingly value.
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