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Barcelona 3-1 Leganés, La Liga: Match Review

Recap from Barcelona’s hard-fought win over Leganes.

FC Barcelona v CD Leganes - La Liga Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Barcelona survived a second-half scare to finally beat Leganes this season. Barcelona were dominating pretty much every facet of the game, but in the second half Martin Braithwaite cancelled out Ousmane Dembele’s first half marker. But the Catalans would not be denied as goals from Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi secured Barcelona’s seventh La Liga win in a row.

Once again, Ernesto Valverde sprung a couple surprises in the starting lineup. Thomas Vermaelen replaced Clement Lenglet, who was a late scratch with muscle fatigue, while Carles Alena took Ivan Rakitić’s spot in midfield. Receiving some rare rest like Rakitić was Lionel Messi, leading to a front three of Dembele, Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho.

The early minutes at the Camp Nou were very calm as Barcelona couldn’t get any penetration through very organized Leganes ranks. The first moments of excitement came in the 9th minute when Dembele turned on his jets down the right win to create a chance. With the keeper coming off the line the young Frenchman cut the ball back but missed Suarez. The ball did find Coutinho near the edge of the area, but the defense recovered in time to block his attempt.

Barcelona were slowly but surely chipping away at Leganes’ defense, but their defense was hanging on amid continuous threats from right, left and middle. Dembele especially was having an excellent game, but against one of La Liga’s better defensive sides Barcelona couldn’t get to Iván Cuéllar. Leganes’ goalkeeper didn’t have to make his first save until the 27th minute when Suarez tried his luck from a 35-yard free kick, but it was an easy save to make.

Leganes were allowing very little and to make matters worse they started wasting time very early. But Barcelona were finally rewarded for their perseverance in the 33rd minute. On the rare occasion when Leganes slightly opened up for an attack, a turnover in transition led to a quick counter down the right wing which was started by Gerard Pique. Dembele was then forced to cut to the middle from where he played through Jordi Alba down the left side. With time Alba waited for options and found Dembele in the danger area. The Frenchman wasted no time and directed a perfect shot off the post and over the goal-line for the lead.

While Leganes were down by one on the scoreboard their game-plan hadn’t changed as the visitors continued to play with a defense-first mentality, but they were a bit more diligent with their press on the Barcelona defenders when the ball was deep in the Catalan area. But even though that press was strong, Barcelona’s defenders (and goalkeeper) usually without much fuss managed to play the ball out. At the stroke of halftime Barcelona had a good chance to double their lead, but Coutinho missed the target after another lovely pass from Dembele.

The Barcelona duo that created the last chance of the first half was quickly back in action in the second. Dembele and Coutinho played a brilliant one-two on the very edge of the area and Coutinho was presented with a good look on goal, but the Brazilian’s shot was blocked just enough for the ball to go wide.

Barcelona were dominating and it appeared a goal was in the air. And the goal came in the 58th minute – on the other side. Leganes launched their first real attack of the game and it came down the right side where Alba failed to make the initial clearance. Youssef En-Nesyri then sent a perfect low ball into the middle where neither Pique nor Vermaelen covered Braithwaite who simply tapped the ball into the back of the net for his first goal for Leganes. Ter Stegen had to make another save three minutes later after a direct free-kick.

It was a development eerily similar to when the two sides met for the first time this season, when Barcelona also took a first half lead but let it slip away in the second half. To prevent a similar occurrence Valverde brought on both Messi and Rakitić in the 64th minute. The pair replaced Alena and Arthur. To make matters worse, Dembele picked up a left ankle injury just moments later after a slip and awkward landing on said ankle. Dembele was limping heavily and a substitution was needed. He was replaced by Malcom though early reports on Dembele’s injury are positive as it is believed it is “only” a sprained ankle.

Barcelona continued to push and celebrated a new lead in the 71st minute with Suarez burying the rebound. Messi fired a brilliant shot destined for the top corner, but Cuéllar made an even better save. Then it came down to a race between Suarez and Cuéllar for the rebound. Suarez was there first and tipped the ball over the line. VAR, however, did get involved as the play was close to offside and there was substantial contact between Suarez and the goalkeeper, but the video assistant confirmed the goal.

But both times this season Leganes have shown that they cannot be counted out with just a one goal lead. Barcelona had an excellent chance to add to that lead in the 79th minute after some fabulous play between Messi, Alba and Suarez, but the Uruguayan fired the ball right at Cuéllar from inside the penalty area. Leganes almost made Barcelona pay for that miss five minutes later, but Vermaelen made a crucial last-ditch clearance.

With five minutes left to play in regulation Leganes finally opened up and started attacking. Barcelona’s defense was looking suspect, Pique especially even though he had a reasonably good game. Barcelona were defending with numbers and were looking to put the game out of reach on the counter attack.

Time was running out for Leganes, but they were given a nice gift of seven minutes added time to complete the turnaround. But those plans were short lived as Messi doubled Barcelona’s lead in the 92nd minute. Messi and Alba were combining on the left side before Alba sent yet another cut-back to Messi who powered a right-footed shot under the crossbar to put the game out of reach.

The duo were once again in action in the 97th minute and Alba was on the prowl for his third assist of the night, but Suarez, who was on the receiving end of the Spaniard’s pass this time, couldn’t beat Cuéllar who made another excellent save. The final whistle came shortly thereafter and Barcelona restored their five point La Liga lead. It’s back to the Copa del Rey now for Barcelona who take on Sevilla on Wednesday.

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