Barcelona played a very entertaining match in the last home game of 2021 and came away with all three points thanks to a 3-2 win over Elche at Camp Nou. Barça were the better team for most of the game but had a brain freeze to start the second half, conceded two goals and needed a late winner from substitute Nico González to return to winning ways in the league.
Ferran Jutglà had his first goal for the first team disallowed for offside just two minutes into the game, which was a sign of what was to come. Barça thoroughly dominated the first half, with really intense, dynamic attacking football with the ball moving quickly and the attacking players constantly switching positions and taking defenders on to create chances with their pace and skill.
Ez Abde and Ousmane Dembélé were great on the wings, Jutglà looked like a veteran striker leading the line, but the star of the half was Gavi. The midfielder played effectively as a number 10 an absolutely ran the show from that position, linking defense and attack with beautiful poise and intelligence. He also scored a spectacular goal, receiving the ball on the half-turn and beating two defenders before finding the bottom corner.
That was Barça’s second goal, which came just three minutes after Jutglà headed home a corner kick from Ousmane Dembélé to give Barça the lead. The Blaugrana had at least two huge opportunities to make it 3-0, but Frenkie De Jong wasted a one-on-one with the keeper and Gavi had a certain goal cleared off the line.
At halftime, a seriously impressive performance had the home team leading by two goals and looking strong ahead of the final period.
Barça came out for the second half lacking the focus and intensity that they showed in the first and started conceding chances to Elche while not playing the same high-quality attacking stuff from the opening 45 minutes. The Blaugrana looked like they were on auto-pilot in the second half, and they paid for it.
Elche needed just two minutes to turn the game completely on its head, thanks to goals from Morente and Milla in which Marc-André ter Stegen should absolutely have done better. In a span of 100 seconds the score was 2-2 with the away team full of confidence, and Barça needed to find a way back with very few options on the bench.
Xavi brought on Nico González and Riqui Puig hoping the duo would bring some creativity and pace into the attack, and Barça did look more threatening as we reached the final 10 minutes. And against all odds, they found the winner: Gavi played a beautiful one-two with Dembélé and found Nico González, who came off the bench to smash home the third and give Barça a very late lead.
The home team managed to hold on to the result and the final whistle came to give Barça a hard-fought, yet crucial victory. The first half was excellent and the response after the two Elche goals was very strong, but the attitude during the first 20 minutes of the second half is unnacceptable. Barça don’t have the luxury to coast through games with the current state of things, and they must be focused for all 90 minutes. They got away with it this time, but it can’t happen anymore.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Araujo, Eric, Lenglet; De Jong (Puig 76’), Busquets, Alba; Gavi; Dembélé, Jutglà (Nico 72’), Abde (Balde 89’)
Goals: Jutglà (16’), Gavi (19’), Nico (85’)
Elche: Badia; Palacios, Roco, González, Mojica (Josema 83’); Josan (Morente 46’), Marcone (Gumbau 46’), Mascarell (Guti 60’), Fidel (Milla 60’); Pérez, Boyé
Goals: Morente (62’), Milla (63’)