One of the biggest games of the Europa League took place on Thursday night as Barcelona took on Galatasaray for the second leg of their round of 16 ties.
This has been one of those rare seasons for Barcelona in which they failed to qualify for UCL knockouts. As a result, they were forced to compete in the Europa League. A competition in which they last featured in 2003.
Nonetheless, it has been one of those trophies that have eluded them. Hence, their quest was on to win the European trophy.
However, they faced a significant threat in the form of Galatasaray. The Turkish side might be having a lousy season domestically. But they were unbeaten in the 7 European games.
Considering the first leg played between the two teams, everyone knew that it would be a tight encounter. The first tie was played out as a goalless draw. Both the teams came at each other’s throats but couldn’t manage to make the net bulge.
Therefore, the second tie was going to be the decider of who would qualify.
Remember, from this season onwards, the away goal rules were lifted. Hence to win a game, either team was required to take a clear lead. A game ending in a tie will eventually go to extra time and penalties.
Since both the teams were well aware of that, they enthusiastically started the game. Right from the kick-off, Barcelona made a great attack to win the first corner of the game within a minute.
Galatasaray took the lead against Barcelona
Although they could not make much of it, they made their intentions clear. They were not going to falter.
On the other hand, Galatasaray was not going to shy away. And they, too, decided to match fire with fire. Their counters were lethal and often managed to catch the Catalonian side off guard.
One of such counters led to the corner in the 27th minute, which resulted in a goal a minute later. Cicaldau took a perfectly placed corner met by Marco’s precise head. This goal gave the Turkish side a lead for the first time in the two-leg tie.
Barcelona didn’t take too long to make a comeback, either. They had been knocking on the door for most of the game. And the goal finally came in the 37th minute.
After struggling for almost all of the game, Barcelona finally strung some good passes together. And this goal was a result of the same. Although Pedri still did a great job too. He showed patience, skill, and precision to put his team on level terms.
The following 7-8 minutes saw both the sides jostling for lead, but at halftime, they were inseparable at 1-1.
Xavi has backed Dembele a lot in his short stint with the club. He did so once again in this game by bringing him in place of Traore at halftime.
Suddenly his presence seemed to have made all the difference for his side.
Barcelona had more of the possession. They were suddenly moving the ball better, and their attacks looked doubly threatening as well. The pressure paid the dividend four minutes later as Aubameyang put his team in front with a tap in goal.
Barcelona dominated the second half
It was the 49th minute of the game in which a pinball situation inside the box offered an open chance for the ex-gunner. And Aubameyang didn’t miss the chance at all. He was well-positioned, and it was impossible to miss from that distance.
From there onwards, it was Barcelona’s game in all sense. They dominated the possession; they always had the ball on the feat. Galatasaray almost couldn’t get a touch of the ball while it still remained in their half.
For an extended part of the game in the second half, Barcelona enjoyed 70% of possession. They couldn’t convert it into a goal, though.
In the ending moments of the game, a huge fight broke out between the players. Alba’s actions incurred the crowd’s wrath upon the pitch. While the players complained of time-wasting, the spectators started hurling missiles on the field.
Luckily no player was hurt, and the game was allowed to continue after a brief halt. This pause resulted in 6 minutes being added to for injury time. However, neither team could take advantage of it and the game ended at 2-1 in Barcelona’s favour.
Soon the referee’s whistle brought great relief to Barcelona and fans alike as they qualified for the quarter-finals of Europa League.