Champions Barcelona were held to an eventful 2-2 by Eibar at the Ipurua Municipal Stadium on Sunday
Eibar had the greater share of chances in the opening exchanges and punished the champions for their slow start. Barcelona loanee Marc Cucurella was afforded far too much time in the visitors’ box before firing past Jasper Cillessen, who should have done better as he allowed the ball to squeeze past him.?
If the early goal came as a shock to ?Barca’s systems, it did not take long for Ernesto Valverde’s side to muster a response. ?Lionel Messi made a darting run into the Eibar penalty area and was picked out superbly by Arturo Vidal, leaving the Argentine the simple task of tucking away a simple finish by his standards.
Barca’s talisman had spared his side’s blushes once again, but he was not finished there. Messi broke clear of the home side’s backline for a second time in quick succession, picked out by Ivan Rakitic, before lobbing Marko Dmitrovic with great composure, as the champions turned the game on its head with little over half an hour played.
However, there was yet another twist in the tale, as Cillessen was again punished for some poor goalkeeping. The Dutchman was caught off his line by Pablo De Blasis, who produced a sublime finish to fire a looping effort over the Barca goalkeeper to equalise for the hosts. Neither side were able to find the winner in a less eventful second half, with both earning a point apiece.
Starting XI: Dmitrovic (5); De Blasis (7), Oliveira (5), Ramis (6), Jose Angel (6); Orellana (6), Escalante (6), Jordan (6), Cucurella (8); Enrich (7), Charles (6)
Substitutes: Garcia (6), Alvarez (5), Cardona (N/A)
Key Talking Point
Ernesto Valverde surprisingly named a near full-strength lineup for Barcelona’s final La Liga game of the season, despite having already wrapped up the title with ease and a huge Copa del Rey final against Valencia looming large next Saturday.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Philippe Coutinho and Luis Suarez were among those missing from the squad through injuries, as Valverde opted to start with the most senior XI available to him, with youngsters such as Riqui Puig, Carlos Alena and Moussa Wague named on the bench.
The visitors’ intentions to get the job done with minimal risk were clear, but the overall execution was less than convincing. Barca struggled to deal with Eibar’s early pressure and allowed the home side to take the lead far too easily, with Lionel Messi once again coming to the rescue.
Jasper Cillessen’s calamitous performance gifted Eibar their two goals, whilst the visitors lacked the necessary attacking support for Messi which Suarez usually provides. In truth, were it not for Messi’s brilliance, Barca would have finished their La Liga campaign with a defeat.
Starting XI: Cillessen (3); Semedo (4), Pique (5), Lenglet (5), Alba (6); Vidal (7), Busquets (6), Rakitic (7); Roberto (5), Messi (8*), Malcom (5)
Substitutes: Wague (6), Alena (5), Perez (5)
STAR MAN – Lionel Messi carrying Barcelona and rescuing his side from peril is by no means unusual, but the Blaugrana’s below-par display, coupled with the Argentine’s trademark brilliance on Sunday, emphasised once more just how crucial the iconic attacker is for Valverde’s side.
With auxiliary right-back Sergi Roberto lining up on the right wing in the absences of Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele, it was unsurprising that Messi’s attacking prowess carried even more weight than usual for Barca. However, without their star man, the champions would have been comfortably beaten on Sunday, but for their talisman’s heroics.
#Barca was 1-0 down in Eibar… until 2 Messi-minutes ago… now 1-2???
Messi = Magician AND goal machine. #GOAT.
— Lars Hendel (@larshendel) May 19, 2019
With Sunday’s draw in the Basque Country having concluded Barcelona’s La Liga campaign, the Blaugrana will ?look to complete the domestic double when they take on Valencia in the Copa del Rey final next Saturday.