Barcelona were unable to widen much of a gap atop the La Liga table as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Las Palmas at Estadio Gran Canaria on Thursday.
Barcelona started the game on the front foot as Lionel Messi created an early chance for Luis Suarez, who fluffed his lines and under-hit the ball. The Argentine then went close himself as his free-kick was tipped away by Leandro Chichizola.
He was finally third time lucky when the Las Palmas goalkeeper had no answer for a free-kick headed into the top right corner. Chichizola was then arguably let off too leniently when he handled the ball outside his area at the stroke of half-time, and Barcelona had more right to be left aggrieved post the break.
Lucas Digne was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the Barcelona box by referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz, with Jonathan Calleri converting the resulting penalty. The visitors subsequently struggled to create much as Las Palmas held on for the draw. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Ernesto Valverde’s men.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 6/10
A quiet night for ter Stegen, like in most league games this season. Unlike most other games though, the German goalkeeper ended up picking the ball up from the back of the net, albeit through no fault of his own. Calleri’s penalty was Las Palmas’ only shot on target and the Barcelona number one had no save to make otherwise.
Sergi Roberto: 5/10
Roberto has looked the best of the right-back options at Valverde’s disposal so far this season, but was far from his best on Thursday. With Las Palmas not much of a threat for the most part, Barca needed the Spaniard to be more of a factor in the final third. But, he showed little drive going forward, and the visitors had nothing to show for from the right flank.
Samuel Umtiti: 6/10
Umtiti, too, was far from his best on Thursday, with a few lapses of concentration that could have cost him dear. But, a booking was as far as it got for the Frenchman, with Las Palmas not posing much danger around the Barcelona box. With the Atletico Madrid game beckoning though, Umtiti needs to be back to his best and quickly.
Thomas Vermaelen: 6/10
Vermaelen was largely untroubled on the night, although he was assured whenever he was called into action, making two interceptions – the most for Barcelona. A healthy option for Valverde, especially with Yerry Mina being eased into the side.
Lucas Digne: 5/10
Deputising for the suspended Alba, Digne had a rare opportunity to impress. But, with big shoes to fill, the Frenchman failed to provide any indication that he deserves to feature more regularly. Like Roberto on the opposite flank, he failed to advance as much as Valverde would have liked, failing to influence the proceedings whenever he did.
Digne was not at fault for conceding the penalty that led to Las Palmas’ equaliser though, as he couldn’t have taken his hand away from the ball. All in all, however, this was a night to forget for the player.
Aleix Vidal: 5/10
Handed a rare start by Valverde, Vidal was supposed to be Barcelona’s attacking outlet on the right flank. But, the beleaguered Spaniard just failed to turn up. Wasteful in possession and underconfident on forward forays, a pass accuracy of 68.2 per cent sums up what a miserable evening it was for a player, whose end at Camp Nou looks near.
Miguel Rico (MD Assistant Director): “I would change Digne for Cucurella and Paulinho for any midfielder in the youth team.” [cope] pic.twitter.com/mFhH3sSPyt
— BarcaSpiral (@BarcaSpiral_) March 2, 2018
Paulinho was back into the side after being left out for the Girona game, but he continued his poor run of form at the Gran Canaria. Known for his trademark lung-bursting runs in the first half of the season, the Brazilian was rather unadventurous while also failing to find pockets of space on his runs off the ball.
With Coutinho and Dembele on the ascendancy, and Rakitic experiencing a renaissance of sorts, his place as a regular is under severe threat.
Sergio Busquets: 6.5/10
Busquets was as Busquets typically is for Barcelona. Absorbing most of the pressure that Las Palmas looked to create on the night, the Spaniard was the most defensively acting player on the pitch for Barcelona. But, he couldn’t relay the ball effectively, which contributed to the visitors’ lax attacking output.
Andres Iniesta: 5/10
Another game when the Barcelona captain looked far from his best, and the sequence is getting alarming for Valverde & co. On Thursday though, his poor performance can also be attributed to a lack of support, especially from Digne down the left flank.
Lionel Messi: 7.5/10
4 – Leo Messi is the player who has scored the most free kick goals this season (four, one more than Neymar and Fekir). Unique pic.twitter.com/fiO3c6w7kt
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 1, 2018
Barcelona’s best player on the night, it was always going to be Messi making the difference for his side following a bright start to the game. An early chance for Suarez went abegging while Chichizola saved his first free-kick.
There was no answer to his second dead ball shot though, as his curling effort went into the top corner. The diminutive Argentine has now scored the most goals from free-kicks this season in Europe’s top five leagues, and could have been a much bigger factor with better support.
Luis Suarez: 6/10
Not at his best on Thursday, which has been a rarity for Suarez since the turn of the year. Perhaps, the Uruguay international was pegged back by the fact that he was one booking away from being suspended, especially with the game against Atletico Madrid on Sunday. Valverde would hope for his star striker to be more lethal in the game.
Philippe Coutinho: 6/10
On for the non-performing Aleix Vidal, Coutinho almost instantly provided the spark that was missing from Barcelona’s attack. But, he couldn’t help find the winner despite all the hard work in the final half an hour.
Ivan Rakitic: 6/10
Not an ideal way to make your 200th Barcelona appearance, although Rakitic introduced a semblance of stability in midfield upon replacing Paulinho.