VIGO, Spain (Reuters) -Barcelona threw away a three-goal lead to draw 3-3 at Celta Vigo in LaLiga on Saturday in a chaotic game which underlined the scale of the task facing incoming coach Xavi Hernandez.
Celta captain Iago Aspas completed a remarkable second-half comeback from the hosts by scoring in the fifth minute of added time after he had pulled their first goal back in the 52nd and Nolito had struck in the 74th to set up a tense finish.
Teenage forward Ansu Fati had given Barca the lead in the fifth minute and captain Sergio Busquets extended their advantage with a low strike from outside the area in the 18th before Memphis Depay added a third in the 34th.
But Barca lost Fati and defender Eric Garcia to injury while lively midfielder Nico was later forced off and they experienced a huge drop off in performance in the second half, Celta’s stirring comeback deepening the Catalans’ woes and extending their winless streak to four league games.
Barca are ninth in the standings with 17 points after 12 games while Celta are 14th on 12.
Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong was fiercely critical of his side as they let slip the three-goal lead.
“I think in the second half we forgot to play, we were very passive and we lacked character,” Dutchman De Jong told reporters.
“This was a very important game for us to climb a little higher in the table and the result is a very big blow for us.”
Real Madrid move top of LaLiga after seeing off Rayo
Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema fired Real Madrid to a 2-1 win at home to Rayo Vallecano to go top of LaLiga on Saturday although Carlo Ancelotti’s side had to face down a late onslaught from their neighbours following Radamel Falcao’s second-half strike.
Real had drawn their last two league games at the Santiago Bernabeu 0-0 but got off to a strong start when Toni Kroos drilled a shot into the top corner in the 14th minute after Marco Asensio had cut into the area from the right wing.
Their top scorer Benzema doubled their lead in the 38th by knocking in a defence splitting pass from defender David Alaba.
Real looked to be cruising their way to victory until Falcao came off the bench in the second half and soon scored a header, with the help of a deflection off Alaba, to put Rayo back in contention in the 76th minute.
It was the 35-year-old’s fifth goal of the season since joining Rayo from Galatasaray in September and the Colombian is enjoying an unexpected renaissance with the Madrid minnows, including scoring the winning goal against Barcelona last month.
The goal awakened the visitors and struck fear into the hosts as Rayo had two late chances to grab an equaliser, Kroos clearing the ball off the line following a goalmouth scramble and keeper Thibaut Courtois tipping an Unai Lopez attempt over the bar.
The win took Real on to 27 points after 12 games, two above second-placed Real Sociedad who have also played 12 but can return to the summit if they beat Osasuna on Sunday. Rayo are sixth on 20 points.
Ancelotti felt his side were worthy of the win despite their nervy ending to the game.
“It’s not fair to say we almost drew the game, I saw a team that could have scored five or six goals. We fully deserved the three points,” he said.
“It’s logical that you get a bit nervous when you concede a goal with 10 minutes to go but overall we played well and I’m happy. It’s normal to suffer a bit in football.”
Considering anyone associated with Rayo would still have vivid memories of their 10-2 mauling at the Bernabeu in 2015, coach Andoni Iraola took plenty of encouragement from his side’s performance even though they left the stadium empty handed.
“The reality is they beat us but we had them on the ropes right until the end,” he said.
“The game was very equal, the key factor is they took their chances, especially in the first half. But we fought right until the end.”
Reporting by Richard MartinEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar
Photo Celta de Vigo’s players celebrates after scoring the 3-3 during a Spanish LaLiga soccer match between Celta de Vigo and FC Barcelona at Balaidos stadium in Vigo, Galicia, northern Spain, 06 November 2021. EPA-EFE/Lavandeira jr