Barcelona was faced with an ultimatum entering their second leg UEL match against Galatasaray.
Win, and you’ll move on to the quarterfinals of the competition. You’ll then keep your hope for silverware alive, and you’ll also continue the great form that’s been acquired over the last month and a half.
If you lose, you’ll bow out of the only competition that realistically gives you a chance to secure a trophy. Not only that though, you’d lose a great deal of momentum heading into Sunday’s El Clasico.
The stakes were high in Turkey. But due to some stellar play — and maybe even a little luck — it was Barca who came out on top with a 2-1 win.
Let’s talk about it.
The first half was a bit of a mixed bag for Barca.
They dominated possession, and really prevented Galatasaray from building possession of their own. But much like the first leg, Barca struggled to create and convert on the chances that developed.
Because those chances weren’t converted, Galatasaray were able to punish Barca on the counterattack a number of times in the first half. With the first chance coming from Bafetimbi Gomis, who almost scored the first goal of the game.
His dangerous shot was blocked by Jordi Alba though. Nonetheless, it was a lively start for Barca’s heated away fixture.
Just minutes later, Frenkie De Jong found himself on the verge of scoring a goal himself. His forward run was aided by a beautiful ball by Sergio Busquets, which gave De Jong a precious one on one opportunity with Galatasaray keeper Inaki Pena.
De Jong couldn’t convert however, as his left footed shot dragged wide of the post.
After some match time went by, the match received another big moment. This time though, it was Galatasaray who seized the moment and finally gave this electric atmosphere the goal it so desperately desired.
Galatasaray strikes first
Marcao of Galatasaray pounced on the opportunity he was presented with. He carefully directed a headed shot towards the left side of the goal from a corner kick. It then slid into the net, sending the stadium into a frenzy.
It was an unfortunate start for Barca. Especially considering how dominant they were in the opening minutes of the match.
The setback would serve as a measuring stick for the Catalan giants. Would they fold and fail to fight back like they did so many times before their successful run of form? Or would they continue to display the mindset that they’ve showcased so many times recently, and claw back to make this match competitive again?
We got our answer soon after Galatasaray’s opening goal, and it came from a golden boy that’s taken the hearts of Barca fans around the world.
Pedri levels the score
After another round of possession, Ferran Torres received the ball and trekked inside on the right flank. He then found Pedri, who made a short, but important run into the penalty area.
What occurred next was a stroke of genius from Pedri.
He dribbled to his right, faked a shot twice while watching Galatasaray defenders hopelessly slide out of the play. Then then calmly shot a rocket past Pena, and leveled the score line.
It was goal reminiscent of one of Lionel Messi’s classic highlights that included elite body control and patience. Which is something you don’t really see every day.
The goal brought some life back to Barca, as they were now fully in contention to grab another goal. As halftime approached, they almost scored that all important next goal.
Just before halftime, Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang’s header, from an Adama Traore cross, hit the woodwork and bounced out of play. It was a close chance, but it served as a reminder that Barca was inching ever so closer to that second goal.
Once halftime came and went, with the second half following, it felt like Barca had finally began to settle in. Not into the match, but into the likelihood that they’d be able to pull it off and walk out of Turkey with a big time win.
Just minutes into the second half, the possibility of moving on grew larger for Barca
Aubameyang finds gold
Just four minutes into the second half, it was Aubameyang who finally gave Barca the breakthrough they’ve been looking for.
After a gorgeous double save sequence from Pena — one that included saves from a long distance shot by Busquets, as well as a close rang opportunity from Pedri — Aubameyang pounced on the chance at hand.
The formal Arsenal man received a nice headed pass from De Jong, which allowed Aubameyang to deflect the ball into the back of the net.
The goal gave Barca a 2-1 lead, and an opportunity to control the ball moving forward, while slowly suffocating Galatasaray’s confidence at the same time.
However, just 10 minutes into the second half, Barca’s plan to cruise to a victory was met with an unfortunate obstacle.
Sergino Dest goes down
Sergino Dest made a great sliding tackle to prevent a potential Galatasaray scoring chance. But he hurt himself in the process and had to be subbed off immediately.
The injury will have some serious repercussions according to multiple reports, including this weekend’s El Clasico in Madrid.
Ronald Araujo was brought on to replace Dest, and played well in a position he’s just not used to playing in.
The second half wore on, with chances falling to both sides. Barca had two chances to seal the match late in the second half, both of which came from Busquets and substitute Memphis Depay.
Busquets’ chance came first. He received a chance to knock home a shot after a Depay free kick. But his chance glanced wide of the post. Depay’s chance did the same, as his one time shot went wide of the post as well.
But the missed opportunities didn’t matter in the end. As Barca found ways to maintain possession, and eventually win the match by a score of 2-1.
This was a gritty win by Barca in a tough, electric environment.
Despite the negatives — and some rough involvement from the Galatasaray fans in the final minutes onf the match — Barca found a way to dig deep and win a crucial fixture.
With their quarterfinal spot in the Europa League secured, attention now turns towards Sunday’s El Clasico.
It could be a difficult match to play, considering Real Madrid’s form, Barca’s lack of rest after their match in Turkey, and a couple of injuries that are affected some members of the usual squad (Gerard Pique’s injury is one to monitor).
But if Barca can dig deep, defend well, and play the rejuvenating football that’s been a staple of Xavi’s project over the last month, then Barca will have a real chance at not only knocking off Real Madrid.
But announcing to the football world that they’re truly back, and ready to wreak havoc once again.
Barca’s next match
Barca’s next match is on Sunday against Real Madrid.
See you all then!