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'Mr Celta' causes Barca to lose further ground in title race

Pin Iago Aspas and Smolov caused Barca to drop two points in Vigo. EFE
Iago Aspas and Smolov caused Barca to drop two points in Vigo. EFE

'Mr Celta' causes Barca to lose further ground in title race

Paul Singh by Paul Singh @besoccer_com - 0 4,390

An 88th minute free-kick from Iago Aspas saw Celta Vigo get a 2-2 draw against Barcelona at the Balaidos in La Liga. Barcelona had twice taken the lead through Luis Suarez while Fyodor Smolov scored Celta's other goal. Real Madrid have the chance to go two points clear with victory on Sunday.

Barcelona lost further ground in the La Liga title race after being held to a 2-2 draw at the Balaidos versus Celta Vigo. Luis Suarez gave Barcelona the lead in the 20th minute after a lovely pass from Lionel Messi's free-kick. Smolov drew the hosts level in the 50th minute when he finished a move involving Aspas and Okay. Suarez then put Barca ahead again 17 minutes later following a terrible error by Denis Suarez, but Iago Aspas' free-kick round the wall gave Celta a deserved draw which could have even been a win at the death.

Barca, who started with Fati and Puig and left Griezmann on the bench, began the game the brighter and could have scored in the sixth minute when Gerard Pique's header from Lionel Messi's corner struck the crossbar, but 14 minutes later, they got the breakthrough. Messi caught out the Celta defence by not going for goal from a free-kick. He instead passed to the unmarked Suarez in the six yard box who headed into the goal. 

Setien's men were shaky at the back though and in the 23rd minute, Celta were unlucky not to level. Denis Suarez found Brais Mendez and his shot was knocked onto the post by Ter Stegen's shoulder and then the keeper had to make another fine save on the rebound. The away side were on top, but Celta were also threatening

Leo Messi came the closest to scoring before the break on two occasions. First, he hit a curling effort wide after combining with Rakitic and then he almost beat keeper Ruben Blanco straight from a corner right on half-time. 

The second half began with Semedo hitting over the bar, but in the 50th minute, Celta were level. Aspas played a splendid pass from midfield to Okay, the Turk held up the ball until Smolov was free in the middle and the Russian tapped in. That caused a good response from Barca which included a couple of good Messi opportunities before Suarez scored again halfway through the second period. 

Denis Suarez played games just outside his own box, Semedo stuck his foot out to block the clearance, the ball broke to Messi who played in Suarez and the Uruguayan hit home after a fine turn. Many would have thought that Barca would see out the victory with ease, but that was far from the case. 

Substitute Nolito was played in by a lovely heel flick from Iago Aspas 10 minutes from time and Ter Stegen had to make a fine save down to his right and then Jorge Saenz headed over a Denis Suarez free-kick a few minutes later. Then, in the 87th minute, Gerard Pique brought down Rafinha and from the resulting free-kick, Iago Aspas curled it round the wall and right into the corner. It was a sensational strike, but there should have been another man on the end of the wall. 

It was a big blow to Barcelona's La Liga title hopes, but it could have easily been worse in the 95th minute. Aspas fed Denis Suarez and his pass to Nolito at the back stick saw the former Sevilla man shoot at goal, but the Barca GK stopped it right on the goalline. A loss would have been cruel for Barca, but a draw was most certainly fair.

Barca are top for now, but Real Madrid have a great opportunity to go two points clear (effectively three with the head to head record) away to Espanyol on Sunday while Celta Vigo go eight points clear of the drop and are unbeaten since the restart (two wins and two draws). 

Paul Singh

Paul Singh

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