EIbar 0 Barcelona 2: Suarez and Alba seal points as Orellana sees red
Luis Suarez’s 17th LaLiga goal of the season helped Barcelona return to winning ways with a hard-earned 2-0 win at 10-man Eibar.
On the back of consecutive league draws against Espanyol and Getafe, Barca boss Ernesto Valverde resisted the urge to shuffle his pack and named an XI it would be no surprise to see line up for Tuesday’s Champions League match at Chelsea.
It was just as well, with Barca forced to repel wave after wave of attacks from Jose Luis Mendilibar’s relentlessly high-pressing side.
Respite arrived courtesy of Suarez’s well-taken 16th-minute goal, which was beautifully created by Lionel Messi’s left boot.
Messi hit the post after Eibar’s Fabian Orellana struck an effort against the crossbar, although the gifted but temperamental Chilean right-winger undermined the hosts’ efforts by receiving his third red card in 12 appearances against Barca midway through the second half.
Remarkably, that did not check Eibar’s ambition but Jordi Alba was able to seal the points two minutes from time.
Valverde’s team have now equalled a club record by going 31 LaLiga games unbeaten and enjoy a 10-point lead at the summit, at least until Atletico Madrid host Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
Eibar went straight for Barcelona from kick-off, with Jose Angel heading over from Ruben Pena’s cross inside the first minute.
The hosts’ bold approach left room for the league leaders at the other end and Alba had a shot blocked after Suarez rounded goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic.
There was still no escaping the fact Mendilibar’s men were making the sharper start, with Orellana and Kike Garcia finding room in behind left-back Alba to fire goalwards in quick succession.
It meant the opening goal came both against the run of play and with a touch of genius, as Messi’s sumptuous throughball left centre-back Anaitz Arbilla splayed on the turf and Suarez skipped past Dmitrovic more effectively on this occasion to finish.
Eibar were not cowed and lively right winger Orellana unleashed a dipping effort against the bar before Joan Jordan dragged wastefully wide from the edge of the box.
To repeat the theme of his afternoon, the wandering Dmitrovic found himself rounded by Suarez again in the 36th minute and cut the ball back for Messi to rattle the far post.
A deft flick from Pape Diop sent Orellana into space down the right in the 55th minute and Takashi Inui lashed wide from his cutback.
Barcelona were struggling to halt Eibar’s rumbling momentum, only for Orellana to foolishly do it for them.
The 32-year-old previously received red cards versus Barca while playing for Xerez and Celta Vigo and, having made a rash lunge on Andres Iniesta inside the opposition penalty area, he punched the ball away in frustration when Diop was punished for a 66th-minute foul on Sergio Busquets and received a second booking for dissent.
Mendilibar was furious, initially it seemed with his player, and continued haranguing the officials before being sent to the stand himself.
His players continued to push in vain despite the deck being stacked against them, ambition that contributed to a game-sealing second.
Philippe Coutinho – who will be cup-tied in midweek – picked out fellow substitute Aleix Vidal with a superb cross-field ball and, although Dmitrovic denied Messi from a cushioned pass into the box, Alba was on hand to slot home.