La Liga’s title race is close at the top of the table, and any mistake at this point could cost a club dearly.
Now only one point behind league leaders Real Madrid, Barcelona’s recent 2-1 victory over Leganes at the Camp Nou was a significant result for the Blaugrana.
Barcelona and manager Luis Enrique had been unbeaten in their last 15 league matches but came into the encounter low on confidence. A 4-0 thrashing in the UEFA Champions League at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain threatened to undermine all of their hard work.
Against a club battling to remain in the Spanish first division, Barcelona knew that they needed to take advantage by earning maximum points against Leganes on Sunday.
But Los Pepineros were not about to make matters easy for the home side.
A magnificent pass from Luis Suarez set up Lionel Messi for a goal in the fourth minute to give Barcelona an early 1-0 advantage. However, Leganes responded with several opportunities at goal and disciplined defensive work to keep it 1-0 at half-time.
Smart substitutions from Leganes manager Asier Garitano directly brought about the equaliser in the 71st-minute, as Unai Lopez levelled the match late in the second half.
On the brink of dropping two crucial points at home, Messi scored from the penalty spot in the 90th minute to provide anxious home supporters in Catalonia with needed relief.
Positive thoughts ahead
The Champions League match against PSG was not easy for anyone at Barcelona, from management to the players.
Lingering effects from the embarrassment at the Parc des Princes in the French capital certainly played a part in their performance against Leganes on Sunday evening.
Lionel Messi’s penalty kick was sent with power and precision. The goal proved to be the match-winner, but more importantly, the strike may have saved Barcelona’s season.
Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen has received his fair share of criticism this season, but he was a key component to the club’s victory on Sunday.
Under constant pressure throughout the first half and late in the contest, the German international recorded five saves and displayed intelligent positioning.
With a talented midfield and capable backline in front of him, Marc-Andre ter Stegen will need to keep up this strong form if Barcelona are to catch their El Clasico rivals in the league table.
Where to go from here
This coming Sunday brings yet another important fixture for the Cules as Barcelona travel to face Atletico Madrid at the Estadio Vicente Calderon.
The two sides recently met earlier this month in the Copa del Rey semi-final round, with Barca advancing 3-2 on aggregate. Sitting fourth in La Liga and six points back of Barcelona, a result will be critical for Los Rojiblancos and manager Diego Simeone.
Home matches against Sporting Gijon and Celta Vigo follow. Then will come a great chance for revenge in the Champions League, as Barcelona will host the second leg of their Round of 16 fixture against Paris Saint-Germain.
Barcelona are in the midst of a critical stretch in their campaign, but their efforts against Leganes this past Sunday kept them on the right track for success.