Barcelona made it four wins on the spin at the expense of relegation strugglers Elche on Sunday afternoon, as goals from Frenkie de Jong and Riqui Puig secured a comfortable win for Ronald Koeman’s side.
The breakthrough finally arrived when Gonzalu Verdu got to a cross from the left before Antoine Griezmann, but could only send it careering towards his own goal-line, where De Jong was waiting to convert the easiest goal of his life.
Elche should have equalised when an overhit pass from Samuel Umtiti caused havoc and left Emiliano Rigoni with a one-on-one, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen was equal to it in his only notable action in the game.
It was easy street from there for Barça who continued to threaten, and they eventually doubled their lead. De Jong embarked on a wonderful run and picked out Puig, who rose to head in his first senior goal on 89 minutes. And that was all she wrote.
Let’s get into some player ratings!
Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GK) – 6/10 – Did indeed play for 90 minutes, not that the camera panned as far as his goal often enough to confirm. One good save at the feet of Rigoni just before the hour mark.
Oscar Mingueza (RB) – 5/10 – The young centre back filled in at right back in the absence of Sergino Dest and Sergi Roberto, and looked like a centre back filling in at right back. Plenty of energy and endeavour but his end product lacked quality and his decision-making on the ball was sometimes awry.
Ronald Araujo (CB) – 6/10 – Little to report on Araujo’s return to the team as he delivered a competent, no-frills performance.
Samuel Umtiti (CB) – 6/10 – Little shaky. Slipped to let Josan through late in the first half and granted Elche their best chance of the game when he sold out his partner by overplaying a routine pass. Otherwise key to his side’s possession game – saw more of the ball and made more passes than any other player on the pitch.
Jordi Alba (LB) – 7/10 – Started slowly but grew into the game and began to direct traffic down Barça’s left flank. Influential display.
Sergio Busquets (CM) – 6/10 – Barcelona committed seven fouls – five of those were Busquets. Deservedly booked for preventing a counter-attack but fine other than his persistent fouling.
Frenkie de Jong (CM) – 8/10 – Busted a gut to arrive at the back post and poke in the easiest goal he will ever score. Would have gone in anyway – just charitable of the Dutchman to prevent it going down as a Verdi OG. Then provided one of the assists of the season with a wonderful run and cross for Puig.
Pedri (AM) – 8/10 – Another who started slowly but impressed as the game wore on. Immaculate with his passing, created more chances than any other player on the pitch, and showed real flashes of quality on the turn.
Ousmane Dembele (RW) – 8/10 – Caused problems his sharp deliveries and should have had an assist from an early free-kick that Griezmann could only head down the throat of the keeper. Stepped up in Messi’s absence – the brightest of Barça’s front four.
Martin Braithwaite (CF) – 6/10 – Held the ball up reasonably but his movement was unambitious. Fewest touches of any Barça outfield player indicated an ineffectual performance.
Antoine Griezmann (LW) – 7/10 – Wasteful with his finishing but clever with his movement coming in from the left. Not his best individual display but an efficient contribution to a fine team performance.
Francisco Trincao (Dembele, 74) – 6/10 – Made his mark with a couple of threatening dribbles as Barça looked for a second goal.
Riqui Puig (Pedri, 87) – 6/10 – On 87, goal 89. Not a bad day’s work.