Messi scores twice, the second a 90th minute face-saving penalty to defeat 17th placed Leganes and save Barca from the brink of crisis.
The Argentine and Ter Stegen helped avoid another humiliating defeat – or at least a very damaging drop of points – against bottom-of-the-league Leganes. Barcelona had come into the game looking for a restorative, thumping win over the minnows after the trauma of their 0-4 defeat against Paris St. Germain in the Champions League. Instead, the Catalan side mostly huffed and puffed without much impact after Messi’s early opener. And it required a 90th minute conversion off the spot by him to secure all three points for Luis Enrique, and arguably for many, robbing Leganes of a deserved point at the very least.
Barcelona 2-1 Leganes FT:
Pass accuracy: 88%-73%
Chances created: 7-5
Messi slams home a late penalty. pic.twitter.com/xiggwbRoV7
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 19, 2017
The hosts showed fluency and wastefulness alike in a stuttering performance. And they also displayed the kind of vulnerability that led to the disaster in Paris. Ter Stegen made some critical saves to keep Leganes at bay. But he was also culpable for their one goal when he let the ball slip through under his leg. Barcelona’s defence didn’t do much to inspire confidence either, ceding possession on several occasions and allowing Leganes sights on goal. In the end, it was a performance that may well further ignite questions about the team’s competence and Enrique’s management.
However, the win does take Barcelona back into second place in the La Liga table after Sevilla’s win earlier. And it crucially keeps them within touching distance of leaders Real Madrid, who are just just a point ahead but nonetheless have two games in hand. The Blaugrana are undoubtedly in something of a crisis. But there is a long way to go yet in the season, and much still to play for. And they have players of unparalleled ability who can turn things around at any time.
6 – Leganes fired six shots on target in this game (11 in total), as many as Barcelona (13). Effort. pic.twitter.com/gfWXcGBSf9
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 19, 2017
Early goal hinted at a glut from MSN, but Barcelona instead largely struggled through amidst jeers from supporters
A 90th minute mach-winning Messi penalty against a side promoted to the Primera Divison for the first time in 89 years is far from the norm at the Camp Nou. But it’s all Barca had on offer on the night as they struggle for form and confidence post-PSG. The slick interplay between Messi, Suarez and Neymar in the opening minutes did suggest that the trio up front may be back to their swashbuckling, devastating best. However a combination of wastefulness and an inability to shut-out the visitors appeared to undermine that confidence. And the behaviour of the home crowd didn’t help the situation at all.
While Barca supporters aren’t as notoriously entitled as those of Real Madrid – or indeed Arsenal, in keeping with the current flavour – they are not much better, as was evident on Sunday night. The crowd made its displeasure with recent results quite clear as they booed manager Luis Enrique. The players weren’t spared either. Andre Gomes in particular was targeted by the jeering masses as the chosen whipping boy from the Paris debacle. And although some very vocal sections did their best to counter the negativity with some loud cheers, the aftertaste remained distinctly bitter. That much was clear in the lack of celebration by Messi upon scoring the winning goal in the 90th.
— Goal UK (@GoalUK) February 20, 2017
Hostility from the supporters will do nothing to repair the situation. Especially considering that Barcelona are full of temperamental wizards who feed off adulation. And in any case, it’s in poor form considering the target is a manager who has brought so much success over his term. The least fans can do under the circumstances is get behind the team wholeheartedly to give them a lift.
Barcelona manager Luis Enrique on the significance of the result, especially after their stunning loss to PSG, and how a 90th minute winner doesn’t matter right now:
“We foresaw that it could be a complicated match given where we were coming from in the Champions League [loss].
“Everything was difficult for us, and that after having scored at the start. It’s clear we were lacking confidence for stretches. The game was finally decided by a penalty, but considering how we are right now, we will take it.”
On the supporters’ jeering and whistling at the team and himself:
“I don’t understand the whistles at Andre Gomes. It doesn’t make sense to whistle your own team’s players, but each person can show their disagreement in the way they see apt.
“I understand the fans whistling me after the result the other day. That’s part of my job. That’s why I’m the manager and after what happened in Paris I accept the criticism. But not the players, that doesn’t help. They should be supported.”
400 – Andres Iniesta has become the 2nd player to reach 400 appearances for Barcelona in La Liga, after Xavi Hernandez (505). Masia. pic.twitter.com/u7iVIKgTx1
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 19, 2017
On what he considers to be Barca’s path to recovery:
“First of all, by winning games. Even if it’s in the last minute like it was today.
“We’ve got some days to rest now and we’re going to evaluate the things we’ve done and what we have to improve. We have to give confidence to the players. The attitude is great, irreproachable. It’s better than in the last two years and I am convinced that the situation will improve.”
“They were three valuable points. Another slip up would have been almost definitive. Not in terms of points, but on an emotional level.”
Leganes boss Asier Garitano:
“We wanted to leave here reinforced either way, with points or thanks to our showing. We didn’t get the points. But I think we leave bolstered by the match. We competed well.”