Sports Desk, Jan 3 (efe-epa).- Barcelona, after its fiasco draw against Eibar last week, bounced back in El Alcoraz, with Leo Messi back in the starting 11, and notched a 1-0 win against Huesca, although their rivals gave them a few anxious moments in the final minutes of play as they went – fruitlessly, it transpired – for the equalizer.
This makes two blundering matches for the Catalonian squad in its last two outings against teams that theoretically should have been no trouble to dispatch, but both almost proved too much for Ronald Koeman’s boys Barca, with another Pyrrhic victory, was unable to do anything more than confirm the fact that it had been favored, but its erratic trajectory this season had made Huesca think that it might be able to eke out a win.
Koeman’s squad overwhelmingly dominated the match right from the startt in terms of ball possession, holding it for almost 84 percent of the time, although it probed and probed for weak spots in Huesca’s defense.
Messi, back in action after an ankle injury kept him out of the Eibar draw, made an impact in fine style by setting up Frenkie De Jong in the 27th minute for the lone tally of the match.
The Catalans were unable to extend their lead, although they tried and tried – and Messi himself made two tally tries, although both were saved by the home team goalkeeper, Alvaro Fernandez.
Messi tried shots from free-kicks but Fernandez tipped the first one away and the Argentine sent the second one over the net, and he also fired a wide shot about 15 minutes into the second half.
Mir tried one for the hosts that Marc-Andre Ter Stegen was lucky enough to save, and Messi fired again, but Fernandez denied him with the ball hitting his legs.
Huesca went desperately for the tie late in the match, with three shots on goal by Ontiveros, Okazaki and Real, but Ter Stegen dealt with each in turn and Barca hung on until the final whistle.
It was Messi’s 750th official match with La Liga and his 500th with Barca.
The win moves Barca up one notch to fifth place, but they are 10 points behind Atletico Madrid, who lead the table with a game in hand after their victory over Alaves earlier in the day. Huesca, on the other hand, is four points below the relegation threshold.
Earlier on Sunday, it was Luis Suarez coming through in the 90th minute who saved league leader Atletico de Madrid from a 1-1 draw, notching the second tally for Diego Simeone’s squad against a weak Alaves who nevertheless had managed, quite by chance, to get the Madrid powerhouse at even-steven, until the final seconds – and with only 10 players on the pitch after the expulsion of Victor Laguardia.
Marcos Llorente was on the scene to put Atleti on the board first in the 41st minute, the tally coming on a deflected shot on goal, and Alaves lost Laguardia in the 63rd minute on a red card after he fouled Lemar, after which it seemed all over for them but Felipe Augusto knocked the ball into his own net in the 84th minute, galvanizing the home team, who had been all but certain of an outright loss.
Suarez got a fabulous crossing pass from Joao Felix and sent it into the net just before time for the win, to keep the team in the top La Liga spot.
After the loss, Alaves has just 18 points and is hovering near the relegation zone.
The match was played with no fans in the stands due to coronavirus gathering restrictions.