Barcelona threw away a three-goal halftime lead on the day Xavi Hernandez was appointed coach. Celtic vigo scored in the 96th minute to complete an astonishing return to La Liga on Saturday. Another result for Barça was exacerbated by another injury for Ansu Fati, who put his team ahead and then started with a thigh muscle problem. Goals from Sergio Busquets and Memphis Depay put Barcelona ahead 3-0 after 34 minutes at Balaidos, but Celta stormed back, Iago Aspas scoring twice on either side of a Nolito header to secure a 3-3 draw.
“We forgot how to play in the second half,” said Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong. “We had a lack of personality.”
Aspas’ equalizer, with a brilliant shot from the edge of the area, came on the clock with 95 minutes and 34 seconds and left the Barcelona players crumpled on the floor.
It’s now Xavi’s job to pick them up, with the team’s new coach watching from Barcelona, where he ended up about three hours before kick-off.
The 41-year-old flew from Doha after confirming his sensational return to the club in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Barcelona’s chaotic defense and inability to manage a game when they looked in control would have come as little surprise to Xavi, but Fati’s hamstring injury will be a cause for concern, especially with a tight Champions League match against Benfica coming on. November 23, shortly after the international break.
Eric Garcia was also forced off with a calf stretch while Nico Gonzalez looked uncomfortable when he was replaced before the hour.
“It’s not an excuse, but the injuries meant we had to change the whole strategy of the game and the players,” said Sergi Barjuan after his last game in interim control.
“If you watch the series, you play children. We relied on children. With everyone, we are stronger.”
Fati’s absence for a long time will be a blow for Barca, and also for Spain, who will be without the 19-year-old next week for important World Cup qualifiers against Greece and Sweden.
It all started so well for Fati and Barca, who took the lead in the fifth minute with a goal out of nowhere, Fati driving in from the left and getting Celta’s right back Hugo Mallo right.
Fati formed to go left to the line and then came back to his right and bent a shot into the far corner.
Three minutes later it was two. Nico swung left and picked out Busquets, who slid over the edge of the penalty area and planted a shot inside the posts.
When Depay kicked Jordi Alba’s cross at the near post, Barcelona looked at home and dry, but then Fati fell to the ground and Garcia was replaced at half-time by Ronald Araujo.
Celta were changed after half-time, with Thiago Galhardo finding the net after an Aspas ball through, only to be ruled offside, before Aspas withdrew a few moments later.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen should have kept Franco Cervi’s cross and after he messed it up, Araujo should have cleared. Instead, he palmed the ball straight to Aspas, who finished.
Again, Celta ruled out a goal as Nolito controlled with his hand before muffling a shot into the corner, but Celta was once again not deterred.
When Busquets was expropriated, Cervi crossed and Nolito entered.
Celta had 16 minutes to find an equalizer and then five minutes of injury time, but it was in the sixth when Aspas finally struck.
Javier Galan hit him from the left, but Aspas still had a lot to do, his left foot wrapped around the ball to sweep it to the right, past the hand of Ter Stegen and in.