BARCELONA, Spain: Robert Lewandowski scored two late goals before João Cancelo snatched the 89th-minute winner to lead Barcelona to a 3-2 comeback win over Celta Vigo at home in the Spanish league on Saturday.
Rafa Benítez was eying his first big win since returning to coaching in Spain with his team ahead 2-0 before Lewandowski struck in the 81st minute. Cancelo then set up Lewandowski to equalize in the 85th before the Portugal right back completed the turnaround.
“It was a great fightback,” said Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández, who signed a contract extension through 2025 on Friday. “It is true we were disorganized at times and didn’t make the ball flow like in other games, but the team won in faith and courage.”
Barcelona are tied on points with the surprising Girona at the top of the table after their fellow Catalan club routed Mallorca 5-3. Real Madrid are one point behind both before visiting Atletico Madrid on Sunday.
Jorgen Strand Larsen put Celta ahead in the 19th and substitute Anastasios Douvikas made it 2-0 in the 76th while their five-man defense held the defending champions in check — until the final minutes.
Cancelo joined Barcelona on the final day of the transfer window on loan from Manchester City. He has made an immediate impact by giving Barcelona a versatile right back, and it was never more evident than when he joined in a last-gasp push against Celta.
After Lewandowski had given Barcelona hope by scooping a shot over goalkeeper Ivan Villar, Cancelo acted as a midfielder to provide an assist for the Poland striker to make it 2-2. His next move was to make a run through the heart of the defense where he met a lobbed pass by Gavi Páez and guided it home.
Cancelo said he was relieved to have helped his new team after having had what he called a poor performance after turning the ball over several times.
“I made many mistakes, but you just have to keep focused and play until the end,” Cancelo said. “We didn’t play well and Celta did well defending its area. But it is always better to play poorly and win, than to play well and lose.”
It was a bitter loss for Benítez, who took over Celta this summer for his first job in Spain since his short-lived stint with Real Madrid in 2015. Celta have only one win in six games under the coach that led Valencia to league titles back in 2002 and 2004.
“I think we played well for most of the game, but in that final stretch I have the feeling their last two goals were preventable,” Benítez said. “Tiredness could have played a part, but those goals can be stopped if you are well positioned. I hope this helps us grow because for 80 minutes we were superb.”
Barcelona lost midfielder Frenkie de Jong near the end of the first half. Gavi Páez replaced him. Xavi said that De Jong would undergo tests to determine the nature of the injury.
The undefeated Girona are the revelation of the season so far. The modest team from Spain’s northeastern Catalonia region that are partially owned by Manchester City’s Abu Dhabi ownership have won five straight games after drawing their opener.
After beating Granada 4-2 last round, they have now scored nine goals in their past two games.
“(Being at the top of the standings) is anecdotal, we are happy for the victory. Winning five in a row in the first division is not an easy task,” coach Míchel Sánchez said.
“Even more important than the results is the sensation we have, knowing that we are competing well and have a clear idea of how we want to play.”
Mallorca went ahead early through a fourth-minute penalty converted by Vedat Muriqi. But Girona roared back with goals by David López, Artem Dovbyk, Iván Martín, Yangel Herrera and Sávio before substitute Ábdon Prats reduced the deficit for Mallorca with a late brace.
Also, Sevilla drew 0-0 at Osasuna.