Barcelona returned to La Liga action after two weeks and extended their unbeaten run to nine games after a 2-0 win over Elche on Sunday. The Blaugrana were not special by any means and struggled to break down a solid Elche defense, but Frenkie De Jong’s Man of the Match performance was enough to lead Barça to three important points on the road.
From the first minute of the game this was an exercise in patience for Barça, who faced a parked bus from the hosts as Elche had all eleven men behind the ball looking to protect their goal and make it tough for Barça to move the ball in the final third.
Without Lionel Messi’s brilliance and with players like Pedri and Ousmane Dembélé unable to create magic to unsettle the defense, Barça couldn’t do anything other than pass the ball from side to side until some space was found, and for most of the half they couldn’t trouble the Elche goalkeeper at all except from a weak shot from distance by Sergio Busquets.
A goalless first half seemed inevitable, but then a breakthrough: Martin Braithwaite attempted a cross from the left trying to find Antoine Griezmann, but González deflected the cross against his own net and Frenkie De Jong got the ball before it crossed the line to score the easiest goal of his life and give Barça the lead.
At halftime, Barça were uncreative and Elche were hard to break down, but the Blaugrana found a crucial goal and had a chance to extend the lead if the home team decided to attack in the second half.
The second half was more open as Elche sent their players forward with more intensity in their pressing, and Barça struggled to keep possession and allowed the hosts to bring danger on the counter, and Marc-André ter Stegen made a fantastic futsal save to stop Boyé on a one-on-one chance.
After a good 20 minutes of pressure, Elche ran out of energy and ideas and Barça looked to protect their lead with safe passing while also still trying to find a second goal, and it finally came with a minute to go after a brilliant run and cross by De Jong and a beautiful header by Riqui Puig, who came off the bench to seal the deal.
The final whistle came to give Barça the three points in what was far from a brilliant performance, but the victory is important for a team that’s clearly exhausted in a brutal January schedule. And how good was it to see Riqui Puig mobbed by his teammates after scoring.
Just play him, Ronald. Please.
Elche: Badía; Barragán, Verdú, González, Mojica; Marcone; Josán, Guti (Morente 74’), Rodríguez (Nino 82’), Rigoni (Luismi 74’); Boyé
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Mingueza, Araujo, Umtiti, Alba; De Jong, Busquets, Pedri (Puig 87’); Dembélé (Trincão 74’), Griezmann, Braithwaite
Goals: De Jong (39’), Puig (89’)