Gerard Pique and Pedri stood out as Barcelona rallied from a goal down to beat Galatasaray 2-1 and reach the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals.
Barcelona looked to control the game from the onset, but the boisterous crowd at the Nef Stadyumu left the visitors rattled. The Blaugrana did the simple things incorrectly, and Galatasaray duly capitalised by creating the first big chance of the game, wherein Jordi Alba denied Bafetimbi Gomis with a block.
Frenkie de Jong had a chance of his own at the opposite end a few minutes later, but the Dutchman pulled his shot wide. Galatasaray broke the deadlock midway through the first half when Marcao headed in Alexandru Cicaldau’s delivery from a corner. But Barcelona levelled the score ahead of half-time, thanks to some brilliant work by Pedri.
After receiving the ball from Ferran Torres, Pedri danced his way around Galatasaray defenders before pulling the trigger at the perfect moment to make it 1-1 in the 37th minute. Barcelona nearly grabbed the lead just before half-time, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s header slammed against the crossbar.
Aubameyang had his goal four minutes after the break, as he scored from close range after gleefully receiving the ball from Frenkie de Jong, who reacted first to the rebound from Pedri’s shot. The game continued to ebb and flow, but Barcelona held on to the slender advantage to reach the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Xavi Hernandez’s men.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 5/10
There was not a whole lot that ter Stegen could have done to deny Marcao’s precisely directed header. But the Barcelona goalkeeper was uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball at his feet at times and made two errors that directly led to dangerous counter-attacks by Galatasaray.
Sergino Dest: 7.5/10
Dest will consider himself desperately unlucky for not finishing the game, as he was again looking in great touch before injury struck. The USMNT international kept the tricky Kerem Akturkoglu quiet, which is no mean feat. And when he had the ball at his feet, he posed a great threat than the predictable Adama Traore.
Eric Garcia: 5/10
Xavi inexplicably gave the nod to Eric Garcia over Ronald Araujo at the heart of the Barcelona defence. While we did predict Garcia to start in our preview, that was with the intention of possibly resting Gerard Pique. But Garcia was terrible in the first half, with Galatasaray playing all around him. He needs to get a grip quickly.
Gerard Pique: 8/10
Xavi: "Piqué's discomfort is not new, he has been feeling it for some time and yet he's making a huge effort to help the team." pic.twitter.com/ps4hTFR7S5
— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) March 17, 2022
In the most difficult games, experience tends to shine through, which was precisely the case with Pique. The veteran defender got a hold of things early on, even as those around him looked rattled, making important clearances and interceptions. Pique hardly lost the ball cheaply while building up play from the back, evading the Galatasaray press smartly.
Jordi Alba: 6.5/10
Alba endured a game of hits and misses, as he was not as influential in the final third as he can be at his best, even though he played three key passes. The Spanish international also faced tricky moments at the back, with Ryan Babel producing a purposeful performance. But his block to deny Bafetimbi Gomis early on was clutch.
Frenkie de Jong: 6.5/10
Frenkie de Jong has been resurgent in 2022, but Thursday’s display was far from a vintage performance by him. The Dutchman should have scored in the early exchanges while doing better when Galatasaray bypassed him at times. But de Jong showed good composure to square his header towards Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for the match-winner.
Sergio Busquets: 6/10
Busquets was not quite at his best on Thursday, as the relentless pressing from Galatasaray left him rattled. The Barcelona captain dug his heels to weather the storm before helping his team grab control of the proceedings in the crucial moments. He completed four interceptions while winning seven duels.
That Pedri goal reminded us of someone. ? pic.twitter.com/tVHHtAesy8
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 17, 2022
One cannot keep Pedri out of the game. While the youngster started the game slowly, he was the standout performer for Barcelona once he found his feet. The teenage prodigy circulated possession smartly while constantly looking for scoring opportunities. And the entire move leading up to his goal was sensational, as he danced around several Galatasaray defenders before producing a deft finish.
Adama Traore: 5/10
One often know what to expect from Adama Traore when he starts on the right flank. But the Spanish international was disastrously predictable on Thursday and rendered Barcelona’s attacking play one dimensional. He was rightly the first player to be taken off.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 6.5/10
Thursday’s game would have been one of Aubameyang’s least enjoyable outings since joining Barcelona. The Gabonese striker gave the ball away carelessly at times and did not get the right service for the most part.
But he put his head down and grafted incredibly well to help Barcelona in a difficult match. And Aubameyang capped off the evening with a poacher’s goal, appearing in the right place at the right time to deliver the win for Barcelona.
1 – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has become in the first @FCBarcelona ?? player to score in his first two European games on the road since Robert Fernández in the UEFA Cup 1986/87 in Lisbon against Sporting CP and in Uerdingen. Infallible.#UEL pic.twitter.com/mi11cA69Vd
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 17, 2022
Ferran Torres: 5/10
Ferran Torres’s pendulating form continued on Thursday, with the Spanish international, who was the Player to Watch in our preview, struggling throughout. It was a wonder how he played the entire game, as he hardly posed a threat and gave away possession a staggering 17 times. Torres also lost Marcao in the build-up to the Galatasaray goal and will hope to bounce back in this coming weekend’s El Clasico.
Ousmane Dembele: 7/10
Dembele replaced Traore at half-time and was an immediate upgrade on the Spanish international. The Frenchman added a new dimension to Barcelona’s attack and played a couple of key passes, all while barely losing possession. Xavi should have handed him a start.
Ronald Araujo: 7/10
Araujo replaced the injured Dest and stood his ground well in a largely unfamiliar position. The young Uruguayan won almost all his duels, and at times, there was no way past him. He showed why Barcelona will continue scrambling to tie him down to a bumper new contract.
Gavi was lively in the middle of the park after replacing Frenkie de Jong. The youngster did not shy away from his defensive duties either while ramping up the game’s tempo, which ultimately helped Barcelona.
Clement Lenglet: N/A
Lenglet was a solid customer at the back in the final ten minutes.
Memphis Depay: N/A
A late introduction, Depay was a bundle of energy in the game’s dying embers and was unlucky not to grab an assist from his cameo.