Barcelona were made to work hard to earn three points as they edged a stubborn Eibar side 2-0 at the Ipurua Municipal Stadium on Saturday
The hosts were tough customers to get past for the league leaders, who were pressed hard by Jose Luis Mendilibar’s men from the get go. But, Barcelona managed to break the deadlock with their first big chance of the match as Lionel Messi split the hosts’ defence to set Luis Suarez up, who rounded Marko Dmitrovic to score.
Thereafter, Eibar dominated the proceedings for the most part, with Takashi Inui coming the closest to scoring after being teed up by Fabian Orellana. The latter would then be sent off midway through the second half to kill the hosts’ momentum, and effectively ending their chances of mounting a comeback.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) February 17, 2018
Mendilibar & co. then went into damage control in effective fashion, but their resistance was finally broken with two minutes left in regulation time as Jordi Alba found the back of the net after Messi was denied by Dmitrovic. The win helped Barcelona end a run of two games without a win and we now run the rule over Ernesto Valverde’s men.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 7/10
One of those rare outings when ter Stegen was a busy man in the Barcelona goal. The German though, was alert to whatever danger came his way, although most of the saves were regulation stops. He also had a lot of work to do with his feet, and it was a mixed outing in that regard for ter Stegen, with some of his long balls not finding his target man.
Sergi Roberto: 6/10
With the Eibar attack coming forward at regular intervals, Roberto had more defending to do than charge forward. The nippy Takashi Inui kept the Spaniard busy on Saturday, but he did well against the Japanese attacker. Not as effective as he usually is in his forward forays.
Gerard Pique: 6/10
Pique seemed to lack sharpness in the early stages of the match as he came back from a short-term knee injury. Fabian Orellana gave him a hard time, using his pace to good effect. But, the Catalan soon found his feet as the match went on being wary to the threat of the Eibar press, while also making a couple of fine blocks.
Samuel Umtiti: 6/10
Umtiti has seen better days in a Barcelona shirt. On Saturday, his passing was a little off at times, and he was also given a few problems by the Eibar attack. Otherwise, the Frenchman was his composed self, aiming to sniff out the dangers posed by the opposing side.
Jordi Alba: 7/10
8 – Only Philipp Max (11) has been involved in more goals than Jordi Alba in the Top 5 European Leagues this season (eight same as Kimmich): two goals & six assists. Active pic.twitter.com/aBg1upjOvD
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 17, 2018
Like Roberto on the opposite flank, Alba had more defensive work to do than he is usually accustomed to as he had to deal with the threat of Orellana. But, he got more freedom after the Eibar man’s dismissal, which eventually helped him get into the box to score the goal that sealed Barcelona’s win.
Ivan Rakitic: 8/10
Rakitic was exceptional on Saturday, putting in a shift on both ends of the pitch. On the defensive end, the Croat helped out Sergio Busquets to stifle the Eibar attack, and he evaded the press successfully on several occasions by using his passing range to good effect. One of the most important players for Valverde at the present moment.
Paulinho seems to have hit a roadblock, with his usual energetic displays not evident in recent weeks. While he did do a lot of dirty work defensively, the Brazilian failed to drive his side forward with his bursts towards the opposition box. Needs to get back to basics of the early season.
Sergio Busquets: 7/10
Busquets was as Busquets usually is, trying to nullify the threat posed by the hosts by reading the game smartly. Like Rakitic, his passing abilities came in handy too, with the Spain international opening up play with his long balls forward. A commanding presence for Barcelona.
Andres Iniesta: 6/10
An unusually quiet night for the Barcelona captain, who could not influence the game at all on Saturday. Eibar’s pressing seemed to neutralise Iniesta, whose passing range was not palpable at the Ipurua. Eventually taken off for Coutinho.
Lionel Messi: 8/10
Lionel Messi has matched the record for most assists in La Liga history 🙌 pic.twitter.com/RSwL47vxCG
— B/R Football (@brfootball) February 17, 2018
With the hosts looking to press Barcelona backwards, Messi often dropped deep to add to the numbers for his side, subsequently taking up the role of a playmaker. His link up with Suarez ultimately became the visitors’ best opportunities to create the openings, with one such chance ending with the opener.
He is now level with Michel as the top assists provider in La Liga history. The diminutive Argentine just keeps on taking all the records.
Luis Suarez: 8/10
The upturn in his form seems to have positively affected Suarez’s work off the ball. On Saturday, with the chances not coming regularly, the Uruguayan showed a lot of desire to work the balls off the Eibar defenders, and his work-rate helped immensely.
Luis Suárez has now scored his 20th goal for Barcelona this season in all competitions.
The sixth season in a row that he has passed this feat. pic.twitter.com/QJNd6y2dR0
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 17, 2018
Got the goal that helped Barcelona establish a foothold in the game. He is now closing in on Messi in the race for the Pichichi, just three shy of his strike partner.
Philippe Coutinho: 7/10
A surprise name on the Barcelona bench, considering he will not be available for the Champions League tie. Coutinho though, was just the antidote that the visitors needed to get some control in the game, with his distribution coming of immense help.
The moment of the match came when the Brazilian opened up the play magnificently by finding Aleix Vidal on his run, who squared the ball to Messi before Alba scored the second goal for his side.