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Luis Suarez, Barcelona Rediscover Winning Ways vs. Eibar

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IFebruary 17, 2018

EIBAR, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 17:  Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring goal during the La Liga match between Eibar and Barcelona at Estadio Municipal de Ipurua on February 17, 2018 in Eibar, Spain.  (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)
Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Barcelona returned to winning ways in La Liga as they beat 10-man Eibar 2-0 thanks to goals from Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba.

Lionel Messi set up Suarez, who rounded goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic and slotted home after just 16 minutes.

However, it was a tough game for Barca, as Eibar caused problems all afternoon despite the dismissal of Fabian Orellana midway through the second half.

Alba then made the game safe with just minutes of normal time remaining as he fired home after Dmitrovic had denied Messi.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde named a strong team for the game, with Andres Iniesta, Messi and Suarez all starting and Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele on the bench.

The clubs shared their lineups via Twitter:

FC Barcelona 🏆🏆 @FCBarcelona

🔵🔴 Barça XI #EibarBarça https://t.co/99QNNEFx9N

SD Eibar @SDEibar

¡Ya tenemos once para enfrentarnos al @FCBarcelona_es! Aupa Eibar!! Gora Eibar!! #EibarBarça https://t.co/6EnETYUeHp

Football journalist Rik Sharma was surprised to see Coutinho benched:

Rik Sharma @riksharma_

Barcelona more or less at full strength vs Eibar. The surprise is that Coutinho is benched, considering he can't play vs. Chelsea.

Eibar started the game strongly as they pressed the visitors back and had chances on goal. Jose Angel sent a header over the bar before Orellana fired a shot just over the woodwork. 

Barcelona then took the lead against the run of play as Messi found Suarez with an excellent through ball, and the striker drifted past Dmitrovic and put the ball into the empty net.

ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan neatly summed up the opening stages of the game:

Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan

Eibar absolutely dominate Barca for first 15 mins, come close four or five times. Messi gets on ball for almost first time, sends forward superb pass, Suarez rounds keeper and scores.

Eibar almost pulled one back immediately as Orellana hit a dipping shot from the edge of the box. It beat goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen but hit the crossbar and flew over.

Having gone a goal behind, Eibar's confidence seemed to drain a little, and Barcelona almost scored a second. Suarez got in behind the defence and found Messi, who went for goal from a tight angle but hit the post.

The Argentinian has now hit the woodwork 15 times this season in La Liga, as shown by ESPN FC's Samuel Marsden:

Samuel Marsden @samuelmarsden

Messi has scored 20 La Liga goals and has now hit the woodwork 15 times in the league, too. https://t.co/YuQm7n17Re

Eibar continued to cause problems after the break as they swept down the right with Orellana. He crossed for an unmarked Takashi Inui in the box, but he fired wide when he should have at least hit the target.

Valverde responded by replacing Iniesta with Coutinho, a player who cost more than Eibar have spent in their entire history, according to journalist Euan McTear:

Euan McTear @emctear

Just when Eibar are looking like equalising, Barcelona bring on Coutinho, who cost more than Eibar have spent on transfers in their entire history.

The hosts then suffered another blow as Orellana was sent off after picking up a second yellow card. The Chilean had already been booked but picked up a second for punching the ball away. It was a characteristic red card for the 32-year-old, according to Corrigan:

Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan

Fabian Orellana loves a stupid red card. Two yellows in two minutes - second for bashing ball away with hand while arguing with ref. Relief for Barca who were 1-0 up but still under cosh.

Eibar coach Jose Luis Mendilibar was also sent to the stands after gesturing for a booking for Suarez after he kicked the ball away as the home side's frustrations boiled over.

Corrigan explained why the home side may have been so enraged:

Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan

True that Suarez 'offence' was not really the same as Orellana's. A lot of Eibar frustration possibly due to incredulity at being behind having played so, so well

Barcelona struggled to make the man advantage count as Eibar continued to force them back and work goalkeeper Ter Stegen. Substitute Aleix Vidal went close but saw his effort blocked by Dmitrovic before Alba finally made the points safe late on.

The win means Barcelona have equalled a club record 31 matches unbeaten in La Liga, per Opta:

OptaJose @OptaJose

31 - @FCBarcelona (W26 D5) have equalled their best unbeaten run in La Liga - 31 games under Pep Guardiola in April 2011. Invictus https://t.co/PNE6lxlRYG

It may not have been a spectacular performance by Barca, but it's an important win away from home against one of La Liga's in-form sides. Valverde's team showed again their fighting spirit and ability to grind out results, and it sets them up nicely for their trip to Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.

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