A second-string Barcelona managed to extend the runaway leaders’ record-breaking unbeaten run in La Liga to 40 matches during an entertaining 2-2 draw at Celta Vigo.
With the likes of Argentina legend Lionel Messi watching on at the start because of Saturday’s Copa del Rey final against Sevilla, the under-strength visitors went ahead on 36 minutes against the run of play when France flyer Ousmane Dembele expertly dispatched his first La Liga goal. Mistakes from maligned Portugal centre midfielder Andre Gomes then led to a 45th-minute leveller through Celta left-back Jonny Castro’s tap-in.
As their Germany goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen continued to pull of superb saves, Barca went ahead again just past the hour mark when reserve striker Paco Alcacer brushed the ball home at the back stick.
Usual right-back Sergi Roberto was then sent off as a substitute for a pull. This eventually led to the 10-men being denied a lucky victory when Spain forward Iago Aspas beat Ter Stegen to a cross and bundled in – possibly with his hand – on 82 minutes to send Celta up to eighth.
Here are our player ratings:
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen – 8: Provided the saviour on a night when a second string was played. Made a total eight saves, with his personal battle against Uruguay forward Maxi Gomez one to cherish.
Nelson Semedo – 7: The reserve right-back contributed far more than Digne on the opposite flank. Fierce centre was eventually tapped in by Alcacer. Should get more action after Roberto red card.
Yerry Mina – 6: January addition gives real presence in defence because of his size. Made share of tackles and clearances during second La Liga start, although looked exposed when dragged out wide.
Thomas Vermaelen – 6: Was left chasing shadows when Gomez shot straight at Ter Stegen in the 10th minute. Recovered composure from there
Lucas Digne – 6: Wild crossing and wild defending defined his night. But he made up for it in the 89th minute by being in place to compete the clearance from Lucas Boye’s goal-bound effort.
Andre Gomes – 3: This cannot be allowed to continue, for both player and club. Made rookie errors for goal despite his price tag and experience, plus had no positive impact on game. Didn’t make it past 60 minutes.
Paulinho – 7: In his 20th start of a tiring debut campaign, the Brazil midfielder was unlucky not to come away with a goal. Hit the post in the first half and was denied a tap-in by Alcacer in the second period.
Ousmane Dembele – 7: Became Barca’s first French goal scorer in La Liga since Thierry Henry with a gorgeous, left-footed half-volley. Provided an intermittent threat, but two of his three shots were on target when cutting inside from the right.
Denis Suarez – 6: A nondescript display at the ground he called home from 2009-11. Fizzed an early effort across goal as he chased a third La Liga goal in 2017/18.
Philippe Coutinho – 5: The €160 million (Dh707m) man had an undulating display. Was like an assassin when Celta made a loose pass for Dembele’s opener, but not much else came off.
Paco Alcacer – 6: The stand-in striker’s goal was the only highlight. Made the least touches (40) of any visiting starter not substituted.
Lionel Messi – 7: Always sets the example, no matter how much time he gets on the pitch.
Sergi Roberto – 3: Didn’t really need to make the foul which got him dismissed.
Aleix Vidal – N/A: Tried to fill the gaps in defence for the 10 men.
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