In their second league encounter against Elche this season, Barcelona guested the Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero. The game ended 2-1 and Barcelona extend their unbeaten league run to 11 games.
The last time these two teams faced, it was a tense fixture, ending in a 3-2 home win for the Catalan side. This time, however, the game would not be a five-goal thriller, but still brought plenty of excitement to the 30,146 fans who showed up to watch the game in person.
This is how the two teams lined up:
Edgar Badia, who had a brilliant game, only conceding from a toe poke equalizer by Ferran Torres and a penalty by Memphis Depay, started in goal.
In front of him, was a four-man backline: Antonio Barragan, Enzo Roco, Diego González and Johan Mojica.
In midfield, Elche set up with two wide men: Tete Morente on the right and Fidel Chaves on the left. The latter scored Elche’s only goal of the game.
Up front, Pere Milla started with argentinian forward Lucas Boyé.
In terms of substitutions, Elche made use of all five. Boyé was replaced by Guido Carrillo, Morente was replaced by Ezequiel Ponce, Fidel the goalscorer was replaced by Josan, Raul Guti was replaced by Iván Marcone, and Omar Mascarell replaced by Kike Pérez.
Marc-André ter Stegen started in goal.
The back-line in front of the German goalkeeper consisted of Dani Alves, Gerard Piqúe, Ronald Araujo and Jordi Alba.
In midfield, Sergio Busquets started with Frenkie de Jong and Pedri. A forward trident was formed through Ousmane Dembélé once again getting the nod from Xavi, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Gavi.
Barcelona also made use of all five allocated substitutions, bringing on Ferran Torres for Gavi, Nico on for Frenkie de Jong, Memphis on for Aubameyang, Adama on for Dembélé, and Dest on for Dani Alves.
A tense encounter
Both teams started the game off with a lot of intent, and a pinch of urgency. Up until the 35-minute mark, not many clear-cut chances had been created as both defenses were quite disciplined, and the creativity from both sides could not match the defensive resilience showed by both outfits.
However, right on the brink of half-time, a pass from Gavi towards his own defense was misplaced and picked up by an on-running Fidel Chaves. The 32-year-old Spanish wide midfielder drove forward with the ball before putting it just out of reach for Marc-André ter Stegen who saw the ball go into the back of the net. The teams went into half-time with Elche having a 1-goal advantage.
Barcelona instantly responded to the late drama in the first half by taking out Gavi and putting on Ferran Torres. The game slowly started to build up more tension as Barcelona began to play with more urgency. As the one-hour mark was hit, this paid off. Ousmane Dembélé put in a cross that Jordi Alba flicked on to Ferran Torres, and the Spanish forward, having been missing his shooting boots recently, found the back of the net. Torres thus scored his first LaLiga Santander goal of the season and continues to prove why Barcelona head coach Xavi Hernández has put his faith in him. 60 minutes in, and the scoreline read 1-1.
Soon after, a string of substitutions from both sides took place, and yellow cards were handed out by referee Alejandro Hernandez to both sides as the game got more frustrating for both teams.
When the game seemed to end in a draw, Barcelona were given hope by Elche. As Memphis is drives down the left wing to go for a cross, his cross hits the arm of Barragan, and after a VAR review, the penalty is awarded. Up steps the Dutchman and he beautifully dispatched it into the top right corner to give Barcelona their much-awaited lead.
The goal came much to the dismay of Elche, and following a subsequent attack, the players appealed for a penalty, a claim they saw dismissed by Alejandro Hernandez. In fact, Javier Pastore, who did not make his way onto the pitch but was complaining from the bench, received a red card for dissent, in the latter stages of the game.
The game, following tension and a late Barcelona appeal for a penalty after Johan Mojica challenged Adama Traoré in the dying embers of the game, ended 2-1, with Barcelona picking up yet another win on the road.
Numbers tell the story
Below, a collection of stats, courtesy of Blaugranagram’s partner FotMob, can be found for what turned out to be a riveting encounter. For additional stats, the FotMob app can be downloaded here for free.
Barcelona had an 86% passing accuracy with 496 attempted passes. They had an xG (expected goal rate) of 4.20, and 68% ball possession.
Barcelona had 20 shots, and missed 6 out of 8 created big chances.
The Catalans were caught offside 4 times.
Elche had a 69% passing accuracy with 184 attempted passes. They had an xG of 0.92, and 32% ball possession.
Elche had 13 shots, and did not create big chances, per se, throughout the game. Their goal came from a 0.05 xG chance with an 0.56 xGOT (expected goals on target) for Fidel Chaves from the position he was in.
With this result, Barcelona have now extended their unbeaten league run to 11 consecutive games. The next test for the Catalans will be in the Europa League on Thursday, March 10, where they will face Galatasaray.