Barcelona rested a number of stars with the Copa del Rey final looming on Saturday and overcame a red card to Sergi Roberto to draw Celta Vigo 2-2 and stay unbeaten on the season.
At a difficult ground against a resilient opposition, Barcelona just did enough at Balaidos to keep their unbeaten run going, with a 2-2 draw against Celta Vigo.
Goals from Ousmane Dembélé and Paulinho clinched a point with 10 men, despite a Jonathan Castro equalizer and an Iago Aspas deflection that appeared to hit his hand.
Barcelona started on the front foot and it didn't take long for the first big chance of the game. Linking up well with Philippe Coutinho, Denis Suarez missed an easy opportunity with the goal gaping. Teed up by the Brazilian playmaker, the former Manchester City starlet dragged his shot wide in a dominant start for the visitors.
Celta Vigo immediately fired back with the exuberant crowd behind them, as La Liga's leading Spanish marksman Iago Aspas stung the gloves of Marc-André ter Stegen, carving open the Barcelona defense with ease. With the goal at his mercy, the ex-Liverpool man wasted a golden opportunity to take the lead in a thrilling end-to-end start.
Without talisman Lionel Messi and the pressing of Luis Suarez, Celta Vigo had a free reign to take control of the match, with Danish duo Daniel Wass and Pione Sisto pulling the strings in midfield.
Barcelona's best chance of the half against the run of play came from an unlikely source. A fantastic corner whipped in to the back post was thumped against the woodwork by Paulinho, rising high to head a shot, which easily beat goalkeeper Sergio Alvarez, routed to the spot.
With the visitors committing men forward, Celta Vigo countered excellently as Brais Mendez led the charge. In a 5-on-3 situation, Los Celestes couldn't capitalize with Mendez missing a simple finish, bending his shot past the post.
Sensing blood, the cultured left foot of Mendez again tested ter Stegen, forcing an accomplished save from the German international, whose fingertips kept out a promising start to the match for the mid-table La Liga side, in ninth place before the match began.
They say the top sides punish you when you fail to make your chances pay, and the league leaders did just that to take the lead. After a poor pass by defender Jonathan Castro, Coutinho took full advantage to tee up French star Dembélé, whose sumptuous left foot volley fizzed into the back of the net.
With an almost instant reply, Castro made amends for his earlier mistake by getting on the score sheet with the final kick of the half. Breaking up the play in midfield, Celta Vigo attacked the lackluster Barcelona defense at pace as Maximiliano Gómez got to the byline. Firing a fantastic ball across the six yard box, an unmarked Castro had the simple task of a tap-in.
Starting the second half in the same way they finished the first, Celta Vigo again countered La Blaugrana to nearly take the lead for the first time of the night. Aspas was again through on goal with only the keeper to beat, but another poor shot flew past the post to keep the sides level.
With 30 minutes left on the clock, Barcelona called upon Messi to try and keep the unbeaten run going. Once the Argentine joined the field, the pressure ramped up. In a matter of minutes, the visitors again took the lead.
Passing and probing down the right, the excellent marauding runs of Nélson Semedo broke through the Celta Vigo defense to go 2-1 up. The Portuguese right back played a neat one two to get to the byline, before a great cross gifted Paulinho the easiest of finishes at the back post.
To give themselves a bit of a challenge with twenty minutes left on the clock and an unbeaten run to hold on to, Barca were reduced to 10 men after a questionable last-man foul from Sergi Roberto. The versatile defender knew Aspas had the beating of him and with Thomas Vermaelen covering, the Spaniard cynically pulled down the Celta Vigo striker to receive Barcelona's first red card of the season in the league.
Forcing their way back into the game, ter Stegen was in no-mans land from a delightful cross. Aspas was on hand to put enough pressure on the German shot stopper, whose failed attempt at a punch ricocheted off the former Liverpool man - with claims of a handball - to equalize with 10 minutes to go in a pulsating game.
Proving his worth between the sticks, ter Stegen again saved his side who defended heroically to keep their unbeaten run intact. Aspas, who was a nuisance all night in front of goal but was also wasteful, forced another save from the Barcelona No. 1 to sum up the hosts night and ensure Barcelona went away with a point to extend their unbeaten run to 40 games.