Luis Enrique had predicted a difficult match yesterday and he was right to be wary of the challenge posed by Las Palmas. The rain stopped for the mid afternoon game and the Canary sun shone down on the Estadio Gran Canaria. Barcelona made a number of rotations for this game with Ivan Rakitic moving to the bench in place of Arda Turan and Sergi Roberto filled the gap left by the suspended Sergio Busquets.
Despite these changes Barcelona got off to a dream start with Luis Suárez opening the scoring with just 5 minutes played. Andres Inesta split the Palmas defence with a precise pass which found Jordi Alba who squared the ball from the left of the box to Suarez who fired the ball into the back of the net. The Barcelona defence was tested early on by the home side and it was only a matter of time before their pressure would pay off. The equalizer eventually came with 9 minutes played. A sensational flick on by Jonathan Viera allowed Willian Jose to hold off Dani Alves before firing the ball past Bravo in goal. A superb goal that sent the home faithful into hysterics.
Both sides would go on to test the other. Barcelona could have taken the lead once again when a Lionel Messi freekick found Luis Suarez unmarked at the back post but the Ururagyan could not direct his header towards goal. Las Palmas made the most of the ball when they had it and a header from Aythami forced Claudio Bravo into action. Barcelona’s midfield was weaker than usual today and the absence of Sergio Busquets made it difficult for the Catalans to retain possession. The eventual winner came from an excellent solo run from Luis Suarez. He carried the ball into the box and squeezed past the defender along the end line before squaring the ball to Lionel Messi who saw his effort saved well by Javi Varas. Varas however could not keep hold of the ball and as a result Neymar pounced on the opportunity and riffled the ball home to restore Barcelona’s lead. 2-1 at the break Barcelona were ahead but looked far from comfortable.
The second half saw the halftime introduction of Ivan Rakitic for Arda Turan who had been walking a tightrope after his first half yellow card. Las Palmas were the better side for most of the second half. Their intensity was significantly less than that of the opening 45 minutes but they still took Barcelona to the wire. The visitors had chances to kill the game with Luis Suarez missing a host of chances. A heroic effort from Javi Varas in the Las Palmas goal helped to keep the home sides dream alive for much of the second half. Goalscorer Willian Jose had the best chance to level the sides when Barvo’s fumbled save fell to him unmarked in the Barcelona box. The Brazilian striker hit the side netting much to the disappointment of his teammates.
Barcelona looked to shore up the defence by introducing Thomas Vermaelen for Sergi Roberto with 20 minutes to go. FC Barcelona seemed complacent as the game entered the dying minutes. As Las Palmas piled men forward a Barcelona counter attack led by Lionel Messi was wasted as the Argentinian failed to pass soon enough which resulted in Las Palmas going on the counter. Jordi Alba made a schoolboy error gifting Araujo with possession. His cross was dealt with thanks to a last-ditch header by Vermaelen. Despite their best efforts Las Palmas failed to level the scores and Barcelona took away all three points.
Barcelona now move 9 points clear of Atletico Madrid who face Villarreal tomorrow and 10 clear of Real Madrid who also play tomorrow. The Catalans were far from their best this afternoon but still leave the Canaries with 3 points. They now look ahead to their Champions League last 16 first leg tie away to Arsenal on Tuesday night before a tricky La Liga encounter at home to Sevilla next Sunday.