Barcelona got their 2018 campaign to a slow after surrendering an early lead to draw Celta Vigo 1-1 at Balaidos in the Galician city of Vigo in Thursday's Copa del Rey round of 16 first leg tie without Lionel Messi.José Arnáiz
gave Barcelona a 15th minute lead off a left footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner with Andre Gomes claiming the assist.Pione Sisto
brought the home side back on level from a difficult angle on the left to the high centre of the goal, 16 minutes later.
Sergi Roberto struck the right post with a left-footed effort from the right side of the six-yard box in the closing stage but Celta held on to see out the game 1-1.SETTING THE SCENE
With Luis Saurez, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi all rested for Thursday's Copa del Rey showdown, the stage was set for the clubs record signing Ousmane Dembele to shine, having just returned from a long-term injury.
Cillessen started in the post ahead of first choice goalie Ter Stegen who was on the bench and to the surprise of many of the Catalans supporters, Dembele failed to make the starting XI.
Celta came off the blocks looking the hungrier of the two sides but may have been in too much of a hurry to make an early impression on the game. Barca took it all in their stride and on the quarter hour were into the driving seat.
It was Jose Arnaiz of Barça B, standing in at the spearhead of the attack, who slammed home an Andre Gomes assist. That was three goals in as many appearances for 22-year-old in this year’s cup campaign and the perfect start to 2018 for the blaugrana.
15 minutes further into the game and Celta hit back. A lively goal it was too, with Iago Aspas firing onto the crossbar and the ball rebounding off Jasper Cillessen as far as Danish winger Pione Sisto, who thundered into the net.
The whole thing had looked so unorthodox that the Barça defence seemed right to assume there had been some infringement along the way. There hadn’t. The goal was legal and we were back on level terms.
Barca were finally stamping some authority on the game while Celta started feeling the effects of their first half exertions.
Denis Suarez failed to connect properly with a Nelson Semedo cross and Sergio Busquets fired onto the crossbar.
The second goal refused to arrive for the visitors and with twenty minutes left on the clock, Ernesto Valverde decided the time had come for Dembéle. After over a 100 days on the side-line, the star signing from Brussia Dortmund was back into action.
In action he was indeed, involved in almost every Barcelona move as they pushed forward on their quest for a second goal. But Celta weren’t sitting back and settling for a draw either.
As the game drew to a close, the home side seemed to find new vigour and had more than a couple of decent chances of their own.
For the third time running, Barca are returned from Vigo without a win, but there will be far less concern this time as the result sets things up nicely for the second leg at the Camp Nou next Thursday, where the likes of Messi and Luis Suárez may well be sent out to finish off the job.