Leganes 1-2 Barcelona: La Liga leaders struggle to past basement boys as Arturo Vidal’s late VAR-assisted winner spares Ernesto Valverde’s blushes
Barcelona beat bottom side Leganes 2-1 but they were lacklustre and lucky, just avoiding yet another slip-up on the road.
Arturo Vidal scored the winning goal on 80 minutes turning the ball in from a yard out.
The offside flag was immediately raised but VAR showed that the ball was played to the Chilean straight from Leganes midfielder Ruben Perez and so the goal stood.
It was a suitably ugly goal to win the match for Barcelona who had served up a far-from pretty performance.
Arturo Vidal was the hero for Barcelona scoring ten minutes from time to help secure vistory
All eyes were on Gerard Pique in the opening moments. He has been preoccupied all week with his Davis Cup project and has spent more time in Madrid’s Caja Magica tennis courts than at Barcelona’s Joan Gamper training ground.
The last thing he wanted was to appear in the photograph of the first goal.
That is exactly what happened on 12 minutes when he was closest to Youssef En-Nesyri as the Moroccan striker curled in a sensational opening goal past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Youssef En-Nesyri gave Leganes a shock lead after his curling shot found the top corner
Apart from possibly not being close enough to the forward Pique had not really been culpable for the goal. Roque Mesa and Ruben Perez had both been quicker to Barcelona players in the build-up.
But it was still 1-0 down early on and with Barcelona’s Pique-marshalled defence looking slow and sloppy.
Pique made a mess of a clearance moments later and Oscar Rodriguez shot into the side netting. Ter Stegen then came charging out of his goal and almost let Martin Braithwaite in. Barça were a mess.
Leganes: Cuellar, Rosales, Bustinza, Omeruo (Tarin 83), Siovas, Silva, O.R. Arnaiz (Eraso 61), Mesa (Carrillo 83), Perez, En-Nesyri, Braithwaite
Substitutes not used: J. Arnaiz, Awaziem, Soriano, Ruibal
Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Firpo, Umtiti, Pique, Wague, Busquets (Rakitic 56), De Jong (Fati 69), Griezmann (Vidal 56), Messi, Dembele, Suarez
Substitutes not used: Neto, Alena, Araujo, Morer
Bookings: Busquets, Vidal
Coach Ernesto Valverde’s team selection had been bold with all four of his forwards on the pitch from the start. The problem for Barcelona was with so much fire power at one end that left just two midfielders protect a fragile looking Barcelona defence that was missing three full-backs Jordi Alba, Neslon Semedo and Sergio Roberto.
Up front Barcelona looked toothless despite Lionel Messi playing behind Luis Suarez with Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann either side of him. Dembele put a lazy corner straight out of play and that summed up Barcelona’s start.
Dembele did provide a better cross for Suarez moments later and his header would have crept in at the far post if not for Pichu Cuellar’s outstretched hand.
Luis Suarez scored his seventh goal of the season with a header from a Lionel Messi freekick
Ernesto Valverde’s decision to replace Antoine Greizmann with Arturo Vidal proved crucial
Barcelona were improving but Sergio Busquets was then booked for a late tackle on Mesa and he now misses next week’s trip to Atletico Madrid.
Pique ended the half giving a simple pass away in midfield but at the start of the second period he headed a Messi corner on to the post.
Barcelona went one better on 52 minutes and it was the old routine Messi and Suarez. The Argentine floated a free-kick to the edge of the six-yard box and the Uruguayan powered a free-header under the dive of Cuellar.
Lionel Messi had a frustrating day at the office as Barcelona struggled to find the net
Despite a lacklustre performance Ernesto Valverde’s side go three points clear at the top
Messi was then threaded through by De Jong but he failed to beat the keeper from just inside the edge of the area.
Griezmann and Busquets were taken off on 55 minutes with Rakitic and Arturo Vidal coming on. Griezmann’s face was a picture, and not a pretty one, when he saw his number raised. His 100m euros move last summer continues to misfire like a damp spark plug.
The Vidal change worked and Barcelona stay top but they continue to look as unconvincing as they have done at any point since Valverde take over. Their players have complained that the criticism is unfair because they remain the team to beat. But supporters feel justified in believing that – playing this way – they will be beaten as soon as they face stronger opposition.
Leganes were unable to hold on in the second half to what could have been a famous victory