It was a tricky challenge for Luis Enrique as he had to manage his squad keeping the two important home fixtures against Manchester City and Real Madrid coming up in the following week.
The wing backs, Jordi Alba and Daniel Alves who were a contributing source of Barcelona’s attack and their unstoppable form were out due to suspension. Enrique brought on Montoya and Correia in the starting eleven. In the midfield he dealed with the challenge of an injured Busquets by fielding Sergi Roberto in the holding role.
Eibar was on a seven game losing streak and already facing a relegation battle.
Barcelona on the other hand had an opportunity to extend their lead to 4 points at the top of the table as their arch-rivals Real Madrid was still to play its Liga fixture against Levante.
Neymar returned to the squad and the Brazilian star was important in the build-up to both the goals that led the Catalan’s achieve an impressive two goal victory.
He was also involved in action as his direct freekick attempt on goal in the 18th minute was obstructed by the wall.
The first goal of the game came after the half hour mark from the penalty spot. A wonderful free flowing passing move led a confused Eibar defense run wild inside the box in order to stop Messi from taking a shot from the edge of the box and in the process Messi’s shot got deflected onto the hand of Borja Ekiza. Messi stepped up to take a shot on goal and he duly delivered despite the fact that the goalkeeper Jaime dived in the correct direction.
Video Highlights Eibar vs. Barcelona 14-3-2015
Eibar were showing tremendous resilience to the Catalan giants and it is evident from the fact that the opening goal of the game from a spot kick.
Barcelona continued to chase the second goal against a lackluster Eibar side which was struggling to keep possession and in the additional time before the half, Suarez missed a great opportunity as Rakitic laid off a delightful ball onto Suarez’s feet using his chest. Suarez hit the ball way wide off goal.
The second half began with the away side seeming in continuous pursuit for a two goal cushion. Messi slid a lovely through ball to Neymar in the 52nd minute but Neymar’s attempt was disappointing as all he could do was hit it straight onto the chest of a charging Jaime. Though the angle was tight for Neymar to finish, he could’ve definitely used Suarez as an option as he was completely free in the centre.
Three minutes later, however, Messi gave the away side what they were seeking for desperately. He headed home a corner by bouncing it over the ground. It was a beautiful finish and with that goal Messi sealed the fixture for Barcelona along with being the foremost contender for the European Golden boot.
Xavi achieved a career milestone by making his 750th appearance for the Catalan side as he came on for Rakitic in the 62nd minute.
As the game approached the final moments, it became more of an end to end affair. Jaime pulled off a save and immediately a counter attack was setup for the home side. At the end of the move, Federico Piovaccari struck the ball bouncing it off the ground only to agonizingly see it hit the crossbar in the 89th minute.
Barcelona at the end was successful in holding onto the two goal lead and now it can comfortably focus on their next big game in Europe against Manchester City.
Barcelona has retained its top spot in Liga ahead of what would probably be the Liga showdown the coming weekend as Real Madrid travel to the Camp Nou for a top of the table clash. With the away win against Eibar, both Barcelona and Messi have retained their top spots in the table and the Golden boot race.
Only time will tell whether this joint-glory will persist till the end of the season or not.
REFEREE: Carlos Del Cerro Grande
VENUE: Estadio Municipal de Ipurúa
Jaime; Didac Vila (Boateng 77’), Lillo Castellano, Ekiza, Raul Navas, Boveda; Jon Errasti (Ander Capa 58’), Borja, Javi Lara; Saul Berjon, Manu del Moral (Federico Piovaccari 69’)
Bravo; Montoya, Pique, Bartra, Adriano; Rakitic (Xavi 62’), Roberto, Rafinha; Messi, Suarez, Neymar (Pedro 70’)
Ekiza 30’ (Yellow)