Barcelona finish 2018 top of La Liga after Celta Vigo win
La Liga, Camp Nou - Barcelona 2 (Dembele 10', Messi 45')
This wasn’t a vintage performance from Ernesto Valverde’s side, but they never looked like dropping points, re-establishing their advantage at the top of the league standings after Atletico Madrid’s win earlier in the day had drawn them level with the Catalans.
Dembele opened the scoring after just 10 minutes of play, squeezing a finish through Ruben Blanco’s legs after Messi’s initial shot had been palmed out into the danger area by the Celta Vigo goalkeeper.
And Messi himself doubled his side’s advantage just before half time, sweeping a finish into the back of the net after being released in behind the absent Celta Vigo defence. The away side never really threatened a fightback from that point on.
Ousmane Dembélé, Jordi Alba and Lionel Messi celebrateGetty Images
TALKING POINT - Ousmane Dembele has finally earned the trust of Ernesto Valverde
There was a point earlier in the season, and last season, when it seemed likely that Dembele will be sold. The French winger didn’t seem to have the trust of Valverde and speculation linked him with a move to the Premier League. However, Dembele has hit a rich vein of form in recent weeks and has now earned that trust of his manager. He’s currently keeping Philippe Coutinho out of the Barca team, so he’s clearly offering something good.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Jordi Alba (Barcelona)
Dembele and Messi were both in sparkling form here, but Alba stood out above all else. He was so high up the pitch for the majority of the match that he was almost used as a wide forward. Indeed, Alba was an outlet for Barcelona throughout, demonstrating his near telepathic understanding with Messi more than once. This was Alba at his best and an illustration of why he is so important to Barcelona and the way they play.
Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (2R) celebrates a goal with Barcelona's Spanish defender Jordi Alba during the Spanish League football match between FC Barcelona and RC Celta de Vigo at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on Decemeber 22, 2018.Getty Images
Celta Vigo - Ruben 6, Mallo 5, Costas 5, Araujo 6, Mazan 5, Mendez 5, Okay 5, Jozabed 5, Boufal 6, Aspas 5, Gomez 7. Subs - Sisto 7, Lobotka 7, Beltran 5.
10’ GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 Celta Vigo: There's the breakthrough and it's Barcelona who have made it. Alba picked out Messi, his shot was saved by Ruben in the Celta Vigo goal, but Dembele was on hand to finish the rebound, squeezing the finish home.
24’ Off the line! Barcelona come flying forward on the counter, Messi threads in Dembele, Ruben comes off his line, then Araujo gets back to make the clearance on the line from Alba.
44’ GOAL! Barcelona 2-0 Celta Vigo: It's a second goal for Barcelona and it's Messi. That's a blow to Celta Vigo right before the break. It was a lovely pass from Alba and there was no doubt when it arrived at the feet of Messi what was going to happen next. Devastating.
50’ Aspas injury! This is a problem for Celta Vigo. Aspas has picked up some kind of muscle strain and the striker is going to have to be replaced here. That's a blow for the away side.
60’ Suarez should score! How hasn't the Barcelona striker found the back of the net? Alba slots through Suarez, but he snatches at the shot and sends the ball wide. That was a sitter.
69’ A scramble! Semedo's cross into the Celta Vigo box was a dangerous one, Ruben palmed it out into the six yard box, but Messi couldn't force it home on the slide. Bit of a scramble.
- Barcelona scored 102 league goals in 2018, more than any other team in any of Europe’s big five leagues.
- Lionel Messi is the only player in Europe’s top five leagues to have scored 15 or more goals in each of the last 11 seasons.