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Messi all but secures Golden Shoe as Barça slip to Eibar draw

Pin Messi's quickfire brace ensured Barcelona went home with a point. AFP
Messi's quickfire brace ensured Barcelona went home with a point. AFP

Messi all but secures Golden Shoe as Barça slip to Eibar draw

Tom Cunild by Tom Cunild @besoccer_es - 0 9,729

Lionel Messi scored his 35th and 36th league goals of the season as Barcelona played out a 2-2 draw with a plucky Eibar side at the Ipurua on Sunday afternoon. He now sits four goals clear of Kylian Mbappé at the top of the European Golden Shoe rankings and, saving a miraculous performance from the Frenchman in his final league game, will take home the award for a record sixth time.

Messi's quickfire brace dug his side out of a hole in the Basque country, as a spirited Eibar team put in an impressive performance to end the season on a high in front of their home fans.

Eibar gave the Spanish champions the traditional guard of honour just before kick-off, but did not make the mistake of showing Barcelona too much respect during the game as they started on the front foot. 

The hosts were aggressive and energetic from the outset, and stung the palms of stand-in Barcelona keeper Jasper Cillessen on multiple occasions in the first twenty minutes with an array of shots that never really threatened to beat the Dutchman.

Another one of these efforts seemed to come in from ex-Barcelona academy product Marc Cucurella as the winger shot from a tight angle after a nice layoff from Sergi Enrich, but the ball squirmed under Cillessen at the near post to give Eibar a deserved lead. Worryingly for Barça ahead of their Copa del Rey final against Valencia next weekend, this would not be the only time Cillessen was at fault throughout the game.

Barcelona looked sloppy and out of sorts as they struggled to deal with Eibar's intense approach but, as is so often the case, talisman and captain Lionel Messi managed to turn the game around in the blink of an eye. Ten minutes after Eibar had taken the lead, Barcelona's top scorer latched on to a clever reverse pass from Arturo Vidal to finish under Dmitrovic from the left side of the penalty area.

Messi then doubled his tally and put his side ahead a mere minute later after a moment of madness from Eibar's defence. The ball fell to Ivan Rakitic in space in midfield, who looked up to see that the Eibar centre-backs had parted like the Red Sea did for Moses. Rakitic slid a perfectly weighted ball in between the two defenders, and Messi raced through on goal before dinking a beautiful chip over the goalkeeper to give Barça an admittedly undeserved lead. At this point, few superlatives remain for arguably the greatest player to ever play the game as he continues to make the extraordinary look, well, rather ordinary.

Barcelona's number 10 seemed to have done enough to ensure his side would enter the break in the lead, but Pablo De Blasis and Cillessen had other ideas. The Barcelona goalkeeper rushed off his line to head away from the edge of the box, but his clearance only fell to Eibar right-back De Blasis who went on to score what will undoubtedly be the best goal of his career. After the ball bounced in front of him, he demonstrated excellent technique to fire his first time effort back over the Dutch international's head from all of 35 yards. Another questionable piece of goalkeeping from Cillessen, but there can be no questioning the quality of the Argentine's finish.

To say that the second half did not live up to the entertainment provided in the first would be an understatement: the game fizzled out into a 2-2 draw after a rather stale second half in which Barcelona looked more concerned about saving themselves for next week's Copa del Rey final against Valencia than pushing on for a winner. That said, Eibar continued to press high, causing problem after problem for a sloppy and lethargic Barcelona midfield that could simply not keep hold of the ball, giving it away time after time in dangerous positions.

The only real chance of note after the break fell to the Basque side in the 81st minute - and what a chance it was. Cucurella had a guilt-edged opportunity to make himself a hero against his former employers, but took an unneccesary and heavy first touch when the ball fell to him in front of the penalty spot, and went on to blaze his effort over the bar and into one of the side streets surrounding La Liga's second smallest stadium.

Barcelona will be sweating on the fitness of full-back Nelson Semedo ahead of the aforementioned cup final in Seville next weekend. The Portuguese defender was substituted at half-time following a clash of heads just before the interval, and has since been taken to hospital as a precaution.

So, as the curtain falls on another La Liga campaign, champions Barcelona can be satisfied with their season's work, and Lionel Messi can go home tonight knowing that he has all-but secured a record sixth European Golden Shoe award after scoring an incredible 36 league goals.

Tom Cunild

Tom Cunild

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