Barcelona extended their winning streak in La Liga to three games and are now in third place in the table for at least a couple of hours thanks to a hard-fought 2-1 win over Elche on Sunday. The Blaugrana played well but missed huge chances and found themselves behind at the half, but came back strong in the second half and found the two winning goals from two substitutes. Elche proved to be as tough as advertised at home, but Barça showed their strength and deserved all three points.
Barcelona were the better team throughout the first half, dominating possession and doing a good job of moving it with pace in the final third while also finding other ways to create chances, like on the counter-attack. The Blaugrana were really dangerous whenever Elche lost the ball, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ousmane Dembélé combining well to create Barça’s best moments of the half.
They had quite a few half-chances, but the two real big ones came towards the end of the first half. The first was a through ball from Aubameyang to Dembélé, who tried to chip the keeper but had it saved; Frenkie De Jong was first to the rebound and had a certain goal, but Diego González made a sensational clearance off the line to keep Frenkie from scoring.
De Jong had another huge opportunity when he received a perfect pass from Sergio Busquets that left him one-on-one with the keeper, but Frenkie couldn’t get the ball past Édgar Badía and had another effort on target stopped. Just a couple of minutes later, Elche found a way to score with their only real attack of the half: a stray ball fell perfectly into the path of Fidel Chaves, the winger hit the ball low and hard into the bottom corner and Marc-André ter Stegen couldn’t make the save, which he probably should have.
That was right before halftime, and from a position of strength Barça all of a sudden found themselves having to make the comeback to get all three points in the second half.
Xavi Hernández brought Ferran Torres off the bench to bring more attacking punch as Barça searched for a quick goal, and it was the Spanish international himself who gave the team big hopes of a comeback when he was in the right place, at the right time to deflect a shot from Jordi Alba into the net and make it 1-1 with a half-hour to go.
Just a few minutes before Ferran’s goal, Marc-André ter Stegen had made a sensational save to stop Pere Milla, which put Barça in position to chase the victory. The away team continued to bring the pressure and create more chances, and Ferran had three huge ones in the 20 minutes following his equalizer; two of them were one-on-ones, but Torres’ finishing issues once again came back to bite him and he couldn’t find the net in any of them.
As we reached the final 10 minutes Barça looked in really good position to find a winner, but they needed good finishing and maybe some luck. The luck came in the form of a penalty, given by VAR after Antonio Barragán was shown touching the ball with his arm inside the box; the good finishing came from Memphis Depay, who won the spot kick and scored a beauty with a bomb into the top corner to put Barça ahead with less than 10 minutes to go.
Elche asked for a penalty of their own when the ball Alba’s arm after a corner, but he had his back turned to the play and no intent whatsoever to play the ball with his hand, so VAR didn’t recommend a penalty this time. But Elche continue to attack and search for a late equalizer, and Barça showed excellent poise in the final minutes to run out the clock.
The final whistle came, and Barça have won three in a row in the league to move up to third place in the table for at least a few hours. Elche proved to be as tough as advertised at home, but Barça still played well enough to create big chances and should have scored more than just two goals. But the win is all that matters, and Barça keep winning right now. Good times.
Elche: Badía; Barragán, Roco, González, Mojica; Morente (Ponce 65’), Mascarell (Pérez 85’), Guti (Marcone 79’), Fidel (Josan 79’); Boyé (Carrillo 65’), Milla
Goal: Fidel (44’)
Red Card: Pastore (88’)
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Alves (Dest 86’), Araujo, Piqué, Alba; Pedri, Busquets, F. De Jong (Nico 68’); Dembélé (Adama 75’), Aubameyang (Memphis 75’), Gavi (Ferran 46’)
Goals: Ferran (60’), Memphis (pen 84’)