A stunning performance from Iago Aspas and Celta Vigo stunned Barcelona at Balaidos as the hosts ran out 4-1 winners. Elsewhere, newly-promoted Las Palmas heaped more misery on Sevilla while Karim Benzema again proved decisive. All that and more in our La Liga Wrap Up for the mid-week round five.
Following the weekend’s impressive 2-1 win over Sevilla, you’d forgive Celta Vigo for failing to repeat the performance when Barcelona came to visit. And, to be fair, they didn’t repeat the performance; they bettered it.
Celta were a side that Barcelona slipped up against last season, and with a thin squad this time around – and after seeing the threat Celta can pose in their win over Sevilla – you’d struggle to put a case forward that Barcelona underestimated their opponents. Yet, they still conceded two goals in four minutes and were 2-0 down after half an hour.
Former Barcelona youth product and fan-favourite Nolito opened the scoring in trademark fashion, receiving the ball on the left and curling into the far top corner. Balaidos was rocking as his teammates mobbed the man with the slick, black hair, as Galicia’s favourite adopted son again showed his quality.
And if Nolito is the favourite adopted son, the local boy who has returned home made sure they weren’t forgetting about him.
Gerard Pique found himself in trouble on the halfway line under Celta’s press and Nolito’s quick touch sent Iago Aspas through on goal. With neither Pique nor Javier Mascherano could catch the no. 9 and Ter Stegen rushing out, Aspas played a sensational chip over the German ‘keeper, bouncing once before nestling in the back of the net to double the lead.
After departing Celta Vigo just over two years ago, Aspas struggled to live up to the standards he set himself during his first stint in Galicia. Signed by Brendan Rodgers in the summer of 2013-14, Aspas was part of Liverpool’s nearly men who narrowly missed out on the title, though of the 101 league goals they scored, Aspas contributed zero in his 14 appearances – mostly out of position on the right flank. A loan move to Sevilla followed last season, though he was still on the fringes, only managing four starts and two goals in La Liga.
A return to his boyhood club seems to be just what he needed, as the welcome home party has kicked off in stunning fashion with an opening day winner against Levante, an assist in the 3-3 draw with Las Palmas, and then the second here against Barcelona. 11 minutes into the second half and he scored his third of the season, fittingly to make it 3-0 against the champions.
Barca had a flurry of chances in the opening of the second half. Leo Messi hit the post in the 52nd minute. Two minutes later Pique headed over from 10 yards. Then Messi rifled a shot which forced a decent save from Sergio Alvarez. If there is ever an opponent where a two-goal lead doesn’t feel safe it is against Barcelona.
But from the ensuing corner it became a three-goal lead. Alvarez got a punch on the cross which Nolito then hooked away from the edge of the area. Aspas rushed onto the ball and, 10 yards inside his own half, played a delicate dink over Dani Alves and was again face with 50 yards of grass and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen. This time, after outrunning Alves, he elected to slot the ball into the bottom corner before jumping the advertising hoarding and celebrating with the rapturous home fans.
Celta Vigo 3. Barcelona 0. The side that was in the Segunda for five straight seasons only three years ago were leading the champions – one of the greatest football sides ever assembled – by three goals. And these kind of matches supposedly only happen in the Premier League?
Neymar managed to pull a goal back 10 minutes from time, but any chance of an unlikely comeback was eliminated completely when John Guidetti put one in the bottom corner three minutes later to earn a historic win – Luis Enrique’s heaviest loss as Barca boss – which sees them remain undefeated and sitting second in the clasificacion.
“What decided this game is how well Celta played. It was highly effective football from them. It was very good. We tried to create problems, but we suffered a lot in one-on-one situations. When a team has played better than you, then there is nothing much that you can say,” Luis Enrique said in his post-match press conference.
“I’d rather lose to a team that plays like Celta did today, without any tricks, purely winning through their football. I congratulate them and hope they can carry on playing like that.”
And the hero, Aspas, agreed.
“We leapt over Barcelona. We played an incredible game, we were better in every situation and we totally deserve the win. The team is coming off a great performance at the Sanchez Pizjuan and today, against the Champions of Europe, we came out and played a great game yet again.”
Hopefully we’ll see them play plenty more this season.
A 2-0 win for Las Palmas against Unai Emery’s struggling Sevilla consigned to a second successive matchday at the bottom of the table, and their third in the relegation zone. Another underwhelming performance from Sevilla, who only mustered three shots on target against the promoted side, saw goals from Roque and former Everton man Antolin Alcaraz push Las Palmas up into 12th place. Last season’s fifth-placed finish and Europa League triumph must seem like a long time ago.
Has Karim Benzema even be so important for Real Madrid? Manager Rafa Benitez set the Frenchman the target of scoring in every match this season, and while it’s certainly not a realistic expectation, the 27-year-old made it five goals in four league appearances as his brace helped Real Madrid edge Athletic Bilbao 2-1 at the San Mames.
Espanyol earned themselves an impressive 1-0 win over stuttering Valencia, who dropped to 10th. While it’s hard to say it is justified after the financial trouble the club has rode through in recent times, the Mestalla crowd are one of the most demanding in Spain. After such a successful campaign last season, Nuno seems to be learning that there are some short memories in Spanish football.
Elsewhere, Villarreal scored a win over Malaga as they continue to make the most of their relatively straightforward start to the season, Atletico Madrid won their Madrid Derby with Getafe 2-0, Eibar got themselves another point in their 2-2 draw with Levante, Rayo defeated Sporting Gijon 2-1, and David Moyes finally got Real Sociedad firing with a 3-0 win over Granada.
Results in full: Atletico Madrid 2-0 Getafe; Espanyol 1-0 Valencia; Granada 0-3 Real Sociedad; Celta Vigo 4-1 Barcelona; Rayo Vallecano 2-1 Sporting Gijon; Levante 2-2 Eibar; Athletic Bilbao 1-2 Real Madrid; Las Palmas 2-0 Sevilla; Malaga 0-1 Villarreal; Real Betis 1-2 Deportivo La Coruña.