It may have taken over six months but Ousmane Dembele’s Barcelona career finally has lift off after he scored his first goal to help propel his side into the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
There had been plenty of discussion pre-match over whether Dembele would even make the starting lineup for the big game after a tough start to his Barcelona career due to injury.
A strong showing against Malaga at the weekend undoubtedly helped his cause as the usually pragmatic Valverde opted to start with the young Frenchman.
It was a huge call by the Barca boss but he was richly rewarded, Dembele was involved in the first goal, distracting the Chelsea defence as Lionel Messi scored after just two minutes and eight seconds.
However, it got even better on 20 minutes when Dembele finally opened his account. Again huge credit has to go to Messi who won the ball, raced clear, then cut back and picked out the Dembele.
Dembele came flying in and while we were all shouting ‘Shoooooot!’ he took a touch before unleashing a shot which Thibaut Courtois got a hand to but simply could not keep out such was its power.
It was a simply brilliant way to open his account for his new club, in a huge match, at a crucial moment and with such a confident finish. It was a rich reward after a really tough start to his Barcelona career that had led to all sorts of ugly speculation in recent weeks.
Dembele also produced a moment of brilliance inside his own box. The 20-year-old got back and produced a sublime sliding tackle to deny Marcos Alonso just after half-time, a contribution almost as important as his goal.
Valverde eventually opted to replace Dembele after 67 minutes as Barca completed a 3-0 win on the night and a 4-1 win on aggregate.
It’s a much-needed performance from Dembele which should do wonders for the young man’s confidence. After a series of false starts, he’s really arrived at Camp Nou, let’s hope this is the start of something special.