BARCELONA — Gerard Pique rescued Barcelona against Girona as the La Liga champions were held to a 2-2 draw on Sunday, dropping points for the first time this season.
Lionel Messi gave Barca the lead in the first half but the game swung on Clement’s Lenglet’s red card in the 35th minute. The French defender was dismissed after VAR was used to determine that he’d caught Pere Pons with his elbow.
With a numerical advantage, Cristhian Stuani scored twice after two Pique errors to give Girona the lead at Camp Nou but the ex-Spain international made amends by heading home a second-half equaliser.
It could have been worse. Trailing 2-1 and a man down, Barca were facing the prospect of their first league defeat at Camp Nou since 2016. However, they showed plenty of fight to take the game to Girona, deservedly equalising but unable to find a winner.
Barca’s 100 percent start to the season is over. After winning four out of four, they saw their progress halted by Catalan rivals Girona to leave them level at the top with Real Madrid. It made for a disappointing night for Lenglet, Arturo Vidal and Arthur Melo, who were all making their first league starts for Barca. Lenglet was sent off and Vidal and Arthur were pulled off when Ernesto Valverde’s side fell behind.
Manager rating out of 10
7 — Valverde’s decision to make changes was going well until Lenglet was sent off. Perhaps, though, he will regret not bringing Umtiti on immediately after the red, rather than waiting until the break. During that 10-minute period, Girona equalised.
Player ratings (1-10, 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 6 — Could do little about either of the goals, left exposed by his defence on both occasions. Made a good save from Portu in the build up to Girona’s second, but could stop Stuani’s effort.
DF Nelson Semedo, 6 — Replaced Sergi Roberto at right-back and help set up Messi’s opener before creating a chance for Suarez in the second half. Was booked for cynically stopping a Girona counter-attack in the 12th minute.
DF Gerard Pique, 5 — A night of highs and lows for the newly-shaven defender. Cleared off the line from Portu but then slipped to let Stuani in for Girona’s equaliser and was easily beaten by Portu in the lead up to the second goal. However, made amends by scoring a Barca’s leveller.
DF Clement Lenglet, 4 — Bailed out by Pique after losing Portu in the 28th minute before being sent off seven minutes later for elbowing Pere Pons. Referee Gil Manzano called on VAR to make the decisions but it still seemed harsh.
DF Jordi Alba, 6 — With Dembele in front of him this season, he’s struggling to have as much of an impact in attack. That said, he took up some good positions in the second half after the French forward was substituted and wasted one good chance by passing instead of shooting.
MF Sergio Busquets, 7 — At the base of a new-look midfield, it was an eventful night for Busquets. As well at baby-sitting Vidal and Arthur, who both made their first starts in La Liga, he also had to fill in at centre-back when Lenglet was expelled.
MF Arturo Vidal, 7 — Created the opening goal for Messi and linked well with the Argentine. Despite doing OK, he was sacrificed for Rakitic as Barca chased the game.
MF Arthur Melo, 6 — Has been compared to Xavi Hernandez by his teammates but made a nervous full league debut. Caught on the ball a couple of time and was booked for late challenge on Aday Benitez.
FW Lionel Messi 7 — Made a brilliant run inside early on, ducking three challenges before being denied by a fine save. Did open the scoring soon after, though, with an expertly taken goal with his first touch. Hit the bar with a free kick after the break and saw another dead ball effort tipped wide.
FW Luis Suarez, 6 — A good turn and strike, which drew a corner, was a throw back to the Suarez of old. Also had another good chance deflected wide.
FW Ousmane Dembele, 6 — Was sacrificed at half time to make way for Umtiti, who came on to fill the gap left by Lenglet. Until then, had blown hot and cold, with some impressive runs followed by giving the ball away tamely.
DF Samuel Umtiti, 6 — Woken from his rest when Lenglet was sent off, coming on at half-time to partner Pique. Got forward late on and had a chance to win the game blocked.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 6 — Came on when Barca were 2-1 down as Valverde looked to the usual suspects to turn the game around.
MF Philippe Coutino, 6 — Thrown on with Barca struggling for the third time in five league games this season. Came close to scoring a winner but was unable to stop the Blaugrana losing their 100 percent La Liga record.