Barça played their first home game of 2019 as they welcomed Eibar to Camp Nou. Following a disappointing midweek loss against Levante in the cup, Barça was looking for a win that would take their unbeaten streak to six in a row.
Barça has been successful against Eibar in recent times as they have notched up 5 wins in as many matches. They have also scored 20 goals in their last 5 matches while conceding only 3.
Formation and Lineups
Phillippe Coutinho made a rare start in place of the in-form Ousmane Dembélé and Arthur replaced Vidal in the starting line-up as Barça started with their traditional 4-3-3.
Eibar started with the young Barça B left-back Cucurella, who’s on loan to the Basque side, while another Barça player on loan Marc Cordona was on the bench.
Barça started brightly as slick passing between Coutinho and Sergi Roberto on the right-wing earned a corner, but the Eibar defence dealt with it easily. Eibar responded by creating a half-chance as a teasing ball failed to find the incoming Sergi Enrich. Rakitic was fouled and the resulting free-kick from Messi found Pique, whose header sailed past the far post. The goal wouldn’t have counted as the offside flag was raised.
Although Barça began to control the proceedings, they didn’t register a shot until the 19thminute, with the shot resulting in the first goal. It was a pure vintage Barça goal started with the one-touch play on the edge of the Eibar box, eventually finding Suárez who took a touch before slotting into the far bottom corner.
Eibar responded to the goal by creating a few chances of their own. Firstly, on the 24thminute, Gonzalo Escalante pulled the trigger from the edge of the box but Clement Lenglet throws himself in front of the shot, deflecting the ball out of danger. A few minutes later, Ruben Pena sent a perfect ball into the penalty area towards Sergi Enrich, whose powerful header curls just wide of the goal.
Eibar continued to create chances as Fabian Orellana’s shot outside the box on the 39thminute went high and wide. After a couple of minutes, Marc Cucurella was brought outside the penalty area by Sergi Roberto. The resulting free-kick is well struck but Clement Lenglet clears the danger with a firm header.
A couple of minutes before half-time, Coutinho was bundled over from behind by Pena while through on goal, but the referee doesn’t award a penalty, nor does he consult the VAR despite being a clear goal-scoring opportunity. The final action of the half ended with Suárez getting a yellow for illegally attempting to stop an Eibar clearance. The first half ended with Barça leading by a goal.
The second-half started scrappily as neither team took control. But eight minutes into the half, it was the moment all Barça fans have been waiting for, as Messi completed his 400thLa Liga goal. It started with Suárezrobbing Arbilla off the ball in the middle and eventually finding Messi in the box. Messi took a touch onto his left foot and drove a low shot into the far-right corner to double Barça’s lead.
If not for a couple of fine saves from Riesgo, it could easily have been 4-0. It started with Suárez’s powerful header from a brilliant Alba cross which was straight to Riesgo. Moments later, it was Coutinho’s turn to be denied. After starting the move with a brilliant flick over Cote, Reisgo came out of the box to poke the ball out of Coutinho. But the best chance of the phase fell to Messi. Coutinho was once again free on the left as he delivered a lovely ball towards Suárez, whose intelligent back-heel found Messi in acres of space. But the Argentine’s shot was blocked by Reisgo again as he spreads himself at the feet of Messi to cut the angle.
Finally, something had to give, and it was some quick thinking by Suárezand Sergi Roberto which resulted in the third goal. Sergi Roberto, after winning a throw-in on the left takes it quickly catching the Eibar defence napping. The throw-in found the oncoming Suárez, who takes a touch and finishes it with his outside boot to beat Reisgo from a tight angle.
The goal deflated Eibar and the chances were far and few. The only notable chance for Eibar came on the 67thminute when an unmarked Sergi Enrich’s header went inches wide off the post.
Barça made three substitutions in the second half with Vidal, Dembélé and Semedo replacing Busquets, Arthur and Sergi Roberto respectively. Dembélé’s cameo almost resulted in the fourth goal, when he burst through the Eibar defence and found Messi with his cut-back. However, the little genius couldn’t control the pass. It was the last notable contribution of the match and Barça eased to a comfortable 3-0 victory which extended their lead at the top to 5 points.
- Coutinho Impresses
It was by far one of the best performances of Coutinho this season. He looked involved in the attack, pressed up high and his brilliant one-two with Suarez created the opening goal. His passing was slick, and he looked confident on the pitch. Hopefully, this would be the start of his turnaround.
- Messi completes 400 La Liga goals
Well, breaking records and setting new records isn’t something new for Leo. On Sunday, he set another record as he became the first player to reach 400 goals in La Liga. Also, Messi has now netted 25 goals in just 23 appearances in all competitions this season, including 17 in the league. It was not surprising that Ernesto Valverde was all praises for the genius.
He said “400 is ridiculous. It’s easy to say it, but if you stack [the goals] one after the other … The numbers are stratospheric, incredible. Messi is an extraordinary player from another galaxy.”
- Suárez’s Lethal Finishing
Luis Suárez was at his lethal best as he hit a brace to take his tally to 14 in La Liga. Suárez, now along with Messi has scored 31 goals this season. No team in La Liga have scored more than them which is astonishing. His work rate and off the ball movement were never questionable but his finishing seems to be coming back to his best which is a great positive for Barça as we near the business end of the season.
Ter Stegen- 7/10
- He made a couple of decent saves but wasn’t pressured much by the Eibar forwards.
Piqué – 7/10
- He was solid at the back and countered the Eibar high press very effectively.
- He made a couple of crucial interceptions and was solid at the back with Piqué.
Sergi Roberto- 6/10
- He seemed to be back to full fitness as he put in a decent performance.
- It seems none of the teams have been able to crack his runs and his cutbacks. Another typical Alba performance with energy, width, and cutbacks.
- A solid performance with calmness personified.
- He had the freedom to move and create space for the team to exploit.
- Not the typical Busquets performance as he misplaced a few passes. But got the deserved rest with the early substitution.
- Almost a flawless performance. Two brilliant goals- one curved in and another with his outside boot. His passing and linkups with Coutinho were impressive.
- Scored his 400th La Liga goal. He would be a little disappointed in not converting the chance when he hit his shot straight to Reisgo.
Coutinho – 8/10
- One of his better performances in recent times. He looked confident on the ball, dribbled well and linked up well with Suárez.