Sparked by a brace from star Lionel Messi, Barcelona beat Eibar 2-0 in a La Liga match at Ipurua Municipal Stadium on Saturday. Barca won over the pesky Eibar side as the Spanish giants now move their focus on upcoming matches against Manchester City and Real Madrid.
Luis Enrique’s club ensured they would hold onto their top spot on La Liga’s table with the victory and have now won five consecutive matches across all competitions. Barca are four points clear of second-place Real Madrid, who play on Sunday. Eibar, despite being a very small club, have done well to put themselves around the middle of the table. They’ve now lost eight-straight matches however and will need to turn their form around if they want to avoid the relegation zone. Gaizka Garitano’s side currently sit 14th on the table.
Messi put Barcelona up 1-0 on Eibar on a coolly finished penalty in the 31st minute. Barcelona were awarded the penalty in the 30th minute on a shot from Messi that was handballed down. Messi’s shot seemed destined for the side netting but it was accidently slapped down by Eibar defender Borja Ekiza. Messi scored on the penalty kick with a rocket to the upper right corner of the net. Goalkeeper Jaime guessed the correct direction but the shot was placed too well to stop. It was Messi’s 31st league goal, pushing him one past Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo for the La Liga lead. That would be the only goal of a surprisingly even-played first half.
The second half was quickly controlled by the visitors. Messi scored again to put Barca up 2-0 in the 55th minute. The diminutive Argentine improbably scored on a header on a corner kick hit by midfielder Ivan Rakitic. Messi headed the ball down from just beyond the penalty spot, the ball skipped off the wet ground and into the left corner of the goal. The ball was poorly cleared off the line but Messi smartly used the wet surface to force a difficult clearance. Goalkeeper Jaime didn’t have a chance to get to the ball.
Eibar truly challenged the league-leaders in the first half. Barcelona held more of the possession but Eibar had a few legitimate chances to scores. The side did a good job of counterattacking and getting forward at the right times, but weren’t able to find the back of the net. The second half was more easily controlled by a Barca side already in the lead. While Eibar had its chances they never truly looked like they would upset the league-leaders. The best chance of the match for Eibar came in the 89th minute but they weren’t able to capitalize. Forward Federico Piovaccari hint a bounding shot from the inside the box that beat Barca keeper Claudio Bravo but clanged off the crossbar and away from the net. The miss ensured the score would finish 2-0, which was still likely a closer scoreline than many pundits would have predicted.
Barcelona play next against Manchester City in a second-leg Champions League match at Camp Nou on March 22. Barca lead on aggregate score 2-1. There won’t be much rest for Barca who will then host second-place Real Madrid on March 22. Eibar play next on the road at Granada in a league match on March 21.