Eibar welcomed La Liga leaders FC Barcelona to the smallest pitch in the league yesterday afternoon as they looked to end Barcelona’s 35 game unbeaten streak. The tiny Basque club put up a good fight but the power of the Catalan giants proved to be too much for Eibar to handle.
Eibar fans might have hoped Neymar’s absence due to an accumulation of yellow cards would dent the bite of Barcelona’s attack but that wasn’t the case. It was the Brazilians replacement Munir El Haddadi who gave the visitors the lead with just seven minutes played. Lionel Messi’s lofted through ball was taken down superbly by Luis Suárez who fired the ball across the face of goal where the teenager Munir was on hand to tap home his fifth goal of 2016. Despite taking the lead Barcelona were not comfortable in the tiny Ipurua stadium. The 6,000 home fans gave the home players the belief they could cause an upset and they certainly created chances. However the Barca defence could not be breached although Sergio Busquets went close to scoring an own goal but luckily for him the ball went wide of the upright.
Lionel Messi had been playing a deeper play maker role throughout the game and it was from a deep position Messi scored his first of the game four minutes before half time. Munir stole possession from Ander Capa and gave the ball to Messi as the Argentinian left the center circle. He raced forward with two defenders in toe before dancing into the box where he unleashed a killer shot that beat Asier Riesgo in the Eibar goal. A fantastic solo goal from Messi. Barcelona went into the dressing room with their two goal lead intact.
The second half of the game was played at a much slower and steadier pace than the first. There were half chances for both sides but nothing that really tested the two keepers. The only notable event before the 75th minute was Luis Suárez receiving his fourth yellow card of the season. Barcelona extended their lead to three from the penalty spot with fifteen minutes left in the game. Lionel Messi had made his way into the Eibar box hounded by Ramis who went to ground just as the Barcelona attacker looked to pass the ball out to Suárez. The ball lodged between Ramis’s arm and body a clear handball and the penalty was awarded. Messi however didn’t give this one to Suárez who had missed one gifted to him on Thursday night. The Argentinean stepped up and scored a ‘paneka’ chipping the ball straight down the middle as Riesgo dived to his left.
With a three goal lead coach Luis Enrique opted for a triple substitution. Sergi Roberto replaced Arda Turan while Thomas Vermaelen replaced Sergio Busquets. Gerard Pique made way for Marc Bartra who made his 100th appearance for the club. These changes didn’t prevent Barcelona from adding further to their tally. In fact Sergi Roberto was key to their fourth goal. The 24 year old collected a loose ball in midfield firing it forward to Suárez who nutmegged his marker before striking the ball across the goal into the far corner of the net. It was the Uruguayan’s first goal since their away victory over Las Palmas on the 20th of February. Barcelona held onto the clean sheet the clubs first in La Liga since the 7th of February. Yesterday’s goals from Messi and Suárez have moved the trio of Messi,Suárez and Neymar’s total tally for the season so far to 100 goals.
FC Barcelona are now 36 games unbeaten and enjoy six days of rest before they welcome Getafe to the Camp Nou on Saturday for a 3:00pm kickoff. It remains the same in terms of the title race in Spain. Wins for Atletico and Real Madrid insure they remain 8 and 12 points respectively behind Barcelona.