Xavi hails Barca's new 'winning character' after Celta comeback

football23 September 2023 20:13| © AFP
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Xavi Hernandez © Gallo Images

Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez praised his side's "winning character" after a sensational 3-2 comeback to beat Celta Vigo on Saturday and move top of LaLiga.

The coach, who signed a new deal until 2025 this week, celebrated with his 50th victory in LaLiga, as Robert Lewandowski's brace and Joao Cancelo's late winner helped his team triumph despite entering the final 10 minutes two goals behind.

Jorgen Strand Larsen and Anastasios Douvikas struck for the visitors, who seemed on course for a surprise win against the champions, but Barcelona produced a comeback which Xavi called "epic".

"We didn't play well (but) came up with the epic, showing winning character," Xavi told reporters.

"Historically we have lacked that ... this shows the generational change we have, they didn’t give up, two nil down at home.

"I think this generation fights until the end ... what happened today is a tremendous turning point of winning character, we didn't play well but it's about character, faith, the epic."

Wily Celta coach Rafa Benitez set up in his typically defensive fashion, unlike Barcelona's recent visitors Real Betis and Royal Antwerp, whose attacking intent made them lambs to the slaughter.

Barcelona hit 10 goals in their previous two matches, with Xavi saying it was the best they had played in his reign, but this performance was largely at the other end of the spectrum.

"(Winning) tastes good, but is it better than the day against Betis or Antwerp? No, because this is not our path," said Xavi.

"Our path is the other day, playing well, moving the ball around high up the pitch –- when we lower our intensity, this team suffers a lot."


Barcelona controlled the opening stages, albeit without creating much danger, but Celta Vigo pushed ahead against the run of play after 19 minutes.

Andreas Christensen played Strand Larsen onside after a corner was only partially cleared, and the Norwegian forward finished clinically past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

At the other end Joao Felix could not control a nicely scooped Frenkie de Jong through pass, before the Dutch midfielder sustained an ankle problem and was replaced by tenacious teenager Gavi.

Celta caused problems on the counter-attack and Ter Stegen foiled Strand Larsen and Jonathan Bamba.

Eventually Benitez's side grabbed their second through new signing Douvikas, who swept home after running on to Iago Aspas's perfectly weighted ball.

However Barcelona hit back swiftly, with Lewandowski flicking the ball over the head of Villar and in off the crossbar after Felix cleverly chipped a ball to him over the top.

It sparked a fire previously lacking in Barcelona's performance, with Lewandowski netting the second four minutes later after Cancelo cut the ball back into his path.

Cancelo won Barcelona the game, dispatching Gavi's excellent cross past Villar with the prowess of a striker.

"I was making a lot of technical errors, that's not normal in my game – I have to improve, we all have to improve," Cancelo told Movistar.

"It's always better to play badly and win, than to play well and lose, the three points are the most important thing."


Earlier Girona romped to a 5-3 win over Real Mallorca to move temporarily top of LaLiga before Barca knocked them back down to second on goal difference.

Michel's unbeaten side have started the season in superb form, with five wins from six matches.

Vedat Muriqi sent the visitors ahead early on with a penalty, but David Lopez levelled after 26 minutes after a scramble in the box.

Girona hit three more before halftime, with Artem Dovbyk, with another spot kick, Ivan Martin and Yangel Herrera on target.

Electric Brazilian forward Savio hit the fifth before the hour mark, with Abdon Prats pulling two goals back late on for the visitors to restore some pride.

"Let's all take a screenshot and see if this lasts more than an hour and a half," joked Girona coach Michel.

Real Madrid, third, who boast a 100 per cent record, face Atletico Madrid on Sunday in a derby clash where they could reclaim top spot, currently trailing the top two by a point.

Sevilla drew 0-0 with Osasuna at El Sadar and continue to languish just above the relegation zone.