Masterful Messi not enough as Celta expose sloppy Barcelona

Lionel Messi Barcelona
Getty Images
The Argentine ended his mini goal drought and created chances aplenty, but his team-mates were wasteful and also stretched in defence in a 2-2 draw

Lionel Messi hung his head in disappointment. He had just curled a fine free-kick towards goal, but seen his set piece deflect off a defender and out of play. The last opportunity had been lost and with it, two points were dropped.

It was not the Argentine's fault. He had done more than most, more than anyone, to win the game for Barcelona. But after 18 straight victories at Camp Nou in La Liga (since the 1-1 draw against Real Madrid in December last year), Ernesto Valverde's side were forced to settle for a solitary point this time.

Celta are the only team to have beaten Barca in each of the last three seasons, and even though two of those victories had come at Balaidos, the Galicians always seem to cause problems for the Blaugrana.

And so they did once again. With former Barcelona assistant Juan Carlos Unzue in charge, Celta knew how they could test Barca and did so by using the pace and width of the Camp Nou pitch to drag defenders out of position and create spaces. It was a relatively simple concept, but one which worked effectively.

Barca Celta score

Prior to this match, Barca boasted Europe's best defence, having conceded only five times in La Liga all season. And no team had managed to score more than once past the Blaugrana in any game since Real Madrid did it twice in a row in the Spanish Supercopa series back in August.

But Celta netted twice and could have had more, with Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen making key saves once more. In front of him, however, Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti were exposed on the visitors' two goals - and the France defender pulled his hamstring as he chased Iago Aspas on the wing in the build-up to the Galicians' equaliser.

Earlier, and despite a stunning stop from Ter Stegen, Celta had taken the lead, only for Messi to cancel out that goal two minutes later to end a six-match streak (five for Barca) without scoring - his longest drought since 2010. And Valverde's side felt aggrieved at half-time after Luis Suarez saw a strike incorrectly ruled out for offside.

After last weekend's controversial decision in the 1-1 draw at Valencia, when Messi was denied a goal despite the ball clearly crossing the line, this was another blow for Barca. But they still should have gone on and won the match.

Lionel Messi Barcelona Celta LaLiga 02122017

Hugo Mallo Sergio Busquets Barcelona Celta LaLiga 02122017

An exquisite move featuring brilliant build-up play from Messi and Jordi Alba cut the Celta defence in two for Suarez to make it 2-1 just after the hour mark, but a Maxi Gomez goal eight minutes later levelled it once again and without Umtiti, Barca played the remainder of the match with Thomas Vermaelen alongside Pique.

Article continues below

At the other end, Paulinho rounded the goalkeeper but missed the target from a tight angle, while Pique also failed to convert following a well-worked free-kick, substitute Paco Alcacer headed over before the end and even Messi misfired from close range.

There were chances aplenty for Barca to win the game and most of those were created by the masterful Messi, but this time it was not enough.

And with Umtiti now set to be sidelined and their lead at the top of the table likely to be closed by Valencia on Sunday, testing times lie ahead for Valverde's men in La Liga.