Galatasaray hosted Barcelona in the second leg of their Europa League last-16 encounter on Thursday evening, with the scores tied after the two teams played a 0-0 stalemate at the Camp Nou last week.
Xavi Hernandez’s players had one eye on Sunday’s Clasico, but they were determined to beat Domenec Torrent’s charges tonight and advance to the last eight.
The final score was 2-1 in the favour of Barcelona and they went through!
Barcelona had to come from behind to win in Istanbul’s Nef Stadium. Galatasaray grabbed the lead through Maraco midway through the first half, but Pedri equalized soon after, and Aubameyang scored the game-winning goal early in the second half.
The hosts had a few chances after that, but Xavi’s men were far superior in the second 45 minutes.
Story of the match
The first 30 minutes of the game were undoubtedly the worst for Barça since Xavi Hernández took control. It was like seeing Ronald Koeman’s team at its worst: awful passing, no intensity, and shockingly bad defense.
Barça kept giving away easy balls in midfield, allowing Galatasaray to create large chances on the counter-attack, and the entire back four looked absolutely bewildered when the home team fired a long ball over the top.
Eric Garcia was especially awful in possession, unable to manage the physicality of Bafétimbi Gomis and making one stupid decision after another.
The home team remained structured and dominant in and out of possession, and they received a well-deserved first goal: captain Marco scored a beautiful diving header off a corner kick to put Galatasaray ahead, sending an incredible Istanbul crowd into a frenzy.
Galatasaray’s goal seemed to wake up Barça, who were finally able to thread together several passes and not lose the ball quickly.
And, following their best sequence of play down the left-wing, Ferran Torres provided a nice assist to Pedri, who sat down two players inside the box and passed the ball into the net to score a stunning goal and give the Blaugrana hope.
Barça had played poorly for the first half-hour but finished strong and needed to improve even more to win the game in the second half.
To begin the second half, Barcelona was a different team: more intense, precise, and imaginative.
They pressed Galatasaray high up the pitch and won the ball in dangerous positions, and it only took four minutes for them to go ahead: after Sergio Busquets and Pedri’s initial shots were saved by Iaki Pea, Frenkie De Jong was first to the rebound and gave Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang an easy tap-in to put Barça ahead.
In the last seconds, Barça managed to hold possession and survive the environment, and the final whistle sent them through to the quarterfinals.
The deed is done, and El Clásico is on the horizon. A busy week has gotten off to a good start for the Cules!