MADRID • Barcelona manager Luis Enrique hailed the quality displayed by his former club Celta Vigo as they thrashed the European champions 4-1 on Wednesday.
Enrique's men had arrived in Galicia with a 100 per cent record in La Liga, but were well beaten as goals from Nolito and John Guidetti either side of a double from former Liverpool striker Iago Aspas sealed a famous night for Celta.
"When your opponents were better than you, there is no more to add," said Enrique, who took charge of Celta during the 2013-14 season before joining Barca.
"I prefer to be beaten by a team that play like Celta, without any traps and purely on football grounds. I congratulate them and urge them to continue playing like that."
The players in the blue of Celta could have been mistaken for Barca, the way they pressed the visitors back with their quick movement and link-up play.
Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen could only get his finger-tips to Nolito's strike into the top corner and then Gerard Pique lost possession on the half-way line with the ball finding its way to Aspas who ran through and lifted the ball over the goalkeeper.
After the break Barca pressed forward but left themselves wide open at the back. Lionel Messi hit the woodwork and then shortly after, Aspas latched on to a long punt forward, evaded a challenge from Dani Alves and found the corner with his shot. Messi set up Neymar for a consolation before Guidetti was given space in the area and cracked home Celta's fourth goal.
Barca have now conceded four goals in a game three times in just nine matches this season. But Javier Mascherano believes there are bigger concerns than their defensive lapses.
"There can be a day when the opponents are better and beat you to every ball. Part of it is our fault and part of it is to their credit," said the Argentinian.
"We don't have any excuses. They beat us soundly and we have to keep working. The most worrying thing is that we feel outplayed."
Celta also stunned Barca 1-0 at the Camp Nou last season and their coach Eduardo Berizzo believes the fearlessness of their performance was worthy of such a sensational result.
"There were special circumstances and a bit of luck that went our way," he said. "Our idea is to play the way we did tonight, trying to take the game to the opponent no matter who we are playing."
Barca's defeat allowed Real Madrid to go top of the table for the first time this season as they were 2-1 winners at Athletic Bilbao thanks to Karim Benzema's double.
The Frenchman scored either side of Sabin Merino's second-half equaliser to take his tally to six goals in his last five games.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS