For the second season in a row Celta Vigo scored four goals against Barcelona at home. And for the second season in a row Celta Vigo took three points against Barcelona at home.
Balaidos rocked in a first half which saw the hosts score three unanswered goals. The home support was then made to sweat as Barça moved back within one goal, only for Marc-Andre ter Stegen to gift Pablo Hernandez his side’s fourth goal of the night. Gerard Pique’s late header — his second goal of the night — set up a tense finale, but Celta held on to secure a third win in as many seasons against Luis Enrique’s side.
Pione Sisto, Iago Aspas and a Jeremy Mathieu own goal evoked memories of last season’s 4-1 win, only for a Lionel Messi-less Barcelona to roar back after the break. Pique scored with his head and Neymar from the penalty spot, before ter Stegen’s nightmare moment. The German tried to clip the ball to Jordi Alba, but he was charged down by Pablo Hernandez, with the ball hitting his head and bouncing into the net.
Pique headed in another goal to make it 4-3, but there were to be no more goals. Both Neymar and Pique headed wide in the final moments, as Barça missed the chance to capitalise on Real Madrid’s draw against Eibar earlier in the day. Atletico Madrid, meanwhile, who beat Valencia, now top La Liga.
Luis Enrique rotated again, leaving Andres Iniesta, Ivan Rakitic and Javier Mascherano on the bench in favour of Andre Gomes, Arda Turan and Jeremy Mathieu. Rafinha, meanwhile, could loosely be accused of taking the injured Messi’s role. Of course, no-one can actually take on Messi’s role.
Despite the shuffling of the pack, Barça were the better side from the off. Neymar could have done better from a dangerously positioned free-kick and Luis Suarez shot straight at Sergio Alvarez after a neat exchange with Arda.
However, the home side’s pressing was chasing problems. Leganes and Sporting Gijon had employed similar tactics and were mildly successful before being hammered by Barça in recent weeks. Celta, though, were better with their pressing. More streetwise. Sergio Busquets, without his usual midfield comrades, was out of sorts but he was working on his own a lot of the time.
It was, therefore, no surprise when Sisto opened the scoring in the 22nd minute. Busquets and ter Stegen both were guilty of mistakes in the moments leading up to the goal and Sisto got behind Alba, who thought about making a challenge but backed out through fear of giving away a penalty. Celta’s Danish forward, in space on the right side of the box, duly slotted home.
Things went from bad to worse for Barça 10 minutes later — and then got even worse inside another 60 seconds. Aspas, the scorer of two goals in last season's Balaidos humbling, scored his side’s second with a well-taken finish from the edge of the box, before Mathieu turned a dangerous cross into his own goal.
The half time introduction of Iniesta, making his 600th Blaugrana appearance, proved pivotal. The midfielder created the first goal for Pique and then blitzed Celta’s defence with a fine pass for Andre Gomes. The Portuguese international was then adjudged to have been pulled back and Neymar slotted the ball home from 12 yards.
However, with Barça sniffing an equaliser, the home side restored their two-goal lead in comical circumstances, ter Stegen’s gaffe all but ensuring Barça would lose at Balaidos for a second season running.
Vigo-born Denis Suarez came on and was lively, creating Pique’s second of the night, before almost creating a third for the heroic centre-back. However, this time he headed off target, with Barcelona’s chances of a point bouncing wide with the ball.