Antoine Griezmann scored an acrobatic late winner to salvage Barcelona a 1-0 win at bottom side Eibar in their final game of the LaLiga season.
Barca were unable to catch Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid in the top two positions on Saturday following a three-game winless run that has increased the pressure on Ronald Koeman.
Without rested skipper Lionel Messi for their final-day trip to Ipurua, the Catalans badly struggled for creativity against their relegated opponents.
However, Griezmann wonderfully fired in nine minutes from time to earn a barely deserved win for Barca that made certain of third place ahead of Sevilla’s meeting with Deportivo Alaves on Sunday.
FULL TIME pic.twitter.com/uQEXipKw4i
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) May 22, 2021
Barca have now scored in each of their 14 league games with Eibar but only tested Yoel Rodriguez once in the first half through a hopeful long-ranger from Oscar Mingueza.
It was the home team who looked the more likely to score before half-time as Sergi Enrich had a shot blocked and Kike Garcia saw an attempt saved by stand-in goalkeeper Neto.
Koeman made a triple change at the interval and that led to a noticeable increase in tempo, but the visitors struggled when it came to making clear-cut opportunities.
Ousmane Dembele danced past three defenders and cut inside from the right, only to send a shot high and wide with the angle against him.
But Barca snapped their three-game winless run with nine minutes to go thanks to Griezmann’s improvised finish from the edge of the six-yard box, with Koeman’s side surviving a late scare to claim the points after Takashi Inui’s heavily deflected shot looped over Neto and hit the crossbar.
What does it mean? Koeman still facing uncertain future
Griezmann’s impressive late winner may have spared Koeman’s blushes somewhat, but it remains to be seen if the Dutchman will still be in charge come the start of 2021-22.
A point was all Barca needed against Eibar, whose relegation was confirmed with defeat to Valencia last week, in order to hold off Sevilla for third place. However, the Catalans’ return of 79 points from 38 games is still their lowest since 2007-08 (67).
That, combined with a Champions League last-16 exit, could well bring an end to Koeman’s short reign, despite April’s Copa del Rey success.
Griezmann to the rescue
The France forward’s late goal was very well taken, scoring from his only shot of a game in which Barca’s attackers otherwise struggled.
Griezmann has been directly involved in 25 goals across all competitions in 2021 – 15 goals and 10 assists – which is behind only team-mate Messi (37) and Villarreal’s Gerard Moreno (30) among LaLiga players.
25 – Only Lionel Messi (37) & Gerard Moreno (30) have been involved both more goals in all competitions than Antoine Griezmann (25, 15 goals & ten assists) in this calendar year. Coq@FCBarcelona #eibarbarca pic.twitter.com/72X7c0cJDi
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) May 22, 2021
Trincao fails to impress
Messi’s absence from Barcelona’s travelling party would have been welcomed by Eibar, the superstar forward’s 30 goals for Barcelona in LaLiga this season one more than every player in the hosts’ squad combined.
Trincao was given a rare chance to shine out wide on his third league start of the season, but the winger had just 21 touches before being replaced by Martin Braithwaite at half-time.
Barcelona have some big decisions to make over the close season before looking to end their LaLiga title drought in 2021-22. As for Eibar, they will attempt to return to the top flight at the first time of asking.