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Liga

Late Aspas free-kick deals Barca huge title blow

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Iago Aspas of RC Celta Vigo celebrates scoring the second goal during the Liga match between RC Celta de Vigo and FC Barcelona at Abanca-Balaídos on June 27, 2020 in Vigo, Spain.

Image credit: Getty Images

ByGraham Ruthven
27/06/2020 at 15:54 | Updated 27/06/2020 at 18:07

La Liga, Estadio Abanca-Balaídos – Celta Vigo 2 (Smolov 50’, Aspas 88’) FC Barcelona 2 (Suarez 20’, 67’)

Iago Aspas netted a late equaliser to snatch a point for Celta Vigo as Barcelona suffered a potentially season-defining blow in the title race at the top of La Liga.

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A DAY AGO

With the Spanish title race going down to the wire, the Catalans couldn’t afford to drop points at Balaidos, an historically difficult venue for them, and they were on course for a win until Aspas’ late intervention.

Barcelona took the lead and the initiative after 20 minutes, with Luis Suarez heading home at the back post after some ingenuity from Lionel Messi. With two Celta Vigo players on the goal line to prevent the freekick from finding the net, the Argentine instead clipped a disguised delivery to Suarez who finished.

Celta Vigo created some opportunities of their own and struck the post through Brais Mendez before they equalised in the second half, with Fedor Smolov finishing from close range after some good work by Okay Yokuslu down the right.

Suarez added a second on 67 minutes, spinning his marker inside the box to finish instinctively into the far corner of the net after being set up by Messi, but it was Aspas who had the final say, curling a low free-kick around the Barca wall to catch Marc-Andre Ter Stegen off guard.

The point sends Barca back to the top of La Liga for now, but Real Madrid can now go two points clear of their Catalan rivals with a victory over bottom side Espanyol on Sunday evening.

TALKING POINT - Was this the decisive turning point in the Liga title race?

Real Madrid have hit the ground running since the resumption of the Liga season, winning all four games they have played, and so the pressure was on Barcelona to keep pace with their rivals. But this result has only tightened Los Blancos’ grip on the title race, with Barca set to take on Atletico Madrid next Tuesday. Might this game be looked back upon as the moment the Catalans lost their crown?

Coach Quique Setien of FC Barcelona during the La Liga Santander match between Celta de Vigo v FC Barcelona at the Estadio de Balaidos on June 27, 2020 in Pontevedra Spain

Image credit: Getty Images

MAN OF THE MATCH - Riqui Puig (Barcelona)

A number of Celta Vigo players shone throughout, with Aspas in particular causing Barcelona problems, but the Catalans might have seen this game out had they kept Riqui Puig on the pitch. The young midfielder was crucial to their structure, especially with Sergio Busquets missing, and that structure was compromised when he was withdrawn late on. Puig surely has to start Tuesday night’s game against Atletico Madrid.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Riqui Puig controls the ball during the Spanish League football match between Celta Vigo and Barcelona at the Balaidos stadium in Vigo on June 27, 2020

Image credit: Getty Images

PLAYER RATINGS

Celta Vigo - Blanco 5, Kevin 5, Saenz 6, Nestor 6, Aidoo 7, Okay 7, Brais 7, Denis 6, Jacabo 5, Aspas 8, Smolov 7. Subs - Mina 5, Bradaric 6, Rafinha 6, Murillo 5, Nolito 4.

Barcelona - Ter Stegen 5, Semedo 6, Pique 5, Umtiti 5, Alba 6, Rakitic 5, Vidal 6, Puig 8, Messi 7, Suarez 8, Ansu. Subs - Braithwaite 5, Griezmann 3, Arthur 5, Firpo 4.

KEY MOMENTS

8’ Close to an early goal! Off the crossbar! Messi's in-swinging corner kick was wicked, Pique got across his man at the near post, but his glancing header comes back off the underside of the bar and away!

21’ GOAL! Celta Vigo 0-1 Barcelona: What a smart opening goal from Barcelona! Celta Vigo had two players back on the line to protect the goal from a Messi freekick, but he clipped a clever cross into Suarez at the back post instead and the Uruguayan heads into the back of the net!

25’ Off the post! Inches away from being an equaliser for Celta Vigo! Brais made the run in behind, he was found by Denis, but his shot, which might have been tipped a little wider by Ter Stegen, comes back off the woodwork!

41’ MESSI... over the top! Space opened up for the Barcelona number 10, he was 16 yards out from goal, on his left foot, time to pick his spot... but he puts his shot over the crossbar! Wow. You don't often see that.

44’ Aspas had to pass! What a chance that was for Celta Vigo to equalise, with Pique left on his own against Aspas and Smolov, but the former takes too long and in the end his shot is blocked.

51’ GOAL! Celta Vigo 1-1 Barcelona: Celta Vigo have equalised at the start of the second half! Okay does really well to burst in behind the Barcelona backline and then find Smolov in the middle with a pass. The Russian striker had the simple task of finishing into the empty net!

67’ GOAL! Celta Vigo 1-2 Barcelona: He's got a second and that could be a priceless goal for Barcelona! Messi steals the ball on the edge of the box, he plays the pass into Suarez who spins on his marker and sends an instinctive finish into the far corner of the Celta Vigo net!

88’ GOAL! Celta Vigo 2-2 Barcelona: A late equaliser! That could be a huge moment in the Spanish title race! Aspas curls a low freekick around the Barcelona ball and into the back of the net at the near post! Ter Stegen was not expecting that! He was caught off guard!

90+4’ Chance to win it! He should have scored! Denis sent a pass across the face of goal, Nolito had the whole net to aim at, but he shoots straight at Ter Stegen! A huge let off for Barcelona there!

KEY STATS

Lionel Messi has now provided 17 assists in La Liga this season, nine more than the next player.

Barcelona have lost five points in the final five minutes of La Liga games this season, more than any other side in the division.

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Related Topics
FootballLigaRC CeltaFC Barcelona
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