Two own goals and one from Luis Suarez steered Barcelona to a 3-0 win in their first ever La Liga meeting with fellow Catalan outfit Girona.
The encounter at Estadi Montilivi was not expected to be a tough test for Barcelona, but Ernesto Valverde’s men managed to come through it despite not being best for large parts of the match. Barcelona have now won all six of their league fixtures and have a four-point lead over second-placed Atletico Madrid.
Despite picking up three points, Valverde will be aware that there is plenty to work on ahead of this week’s Champions League match against Sporting Lisbon since this was not a convincing performance from his men. They wasted too many chances, the midfield was poor and they were caught offside 14 times.
Although Luis Suarez netted the only goal from the side, he mistimed runs time and again. There also seemed to be a disconnect in attack, which saw several promising moves break down. With their rivals Real Madrid getting back to winning ways, Barcelona will have to pull their socks up soon.
The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over the performance of Ernesto Valverde’s men on the night.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen – 7.5/10
The goalkeeper was Barca’s best player in the first half. He put up a brilliant display with a double save with the game still scoreless. The second stop from on-loan Manchester City midfielder Douglas Luiz’s effort was particularly impressive.
Ter Stegen made more saves in the second half to deny the Girona front men. All in all, a commanding outing on a night when his defensive unit did not support him well.
Sergi Roberto – 8/10
Sergi Roberto enjoyed a brilliant day at work on Saturday. Defensively sound, the player also looked threatening when advancing forward. He also provided support for Luis Suarez when the opportunity arose.
In a return to the right-back slot, Roberto showed that he’ll be an able backup to Nelson Semedo even as he plays as a midfielder for large parts of the season.
Javier Mascherano – 7/10
Mascherano seemed comfortable on the field which allowed him to defend the ball well. In fact, in what was the second successive start for the Argentine, he once again went out of his way more than once to make important blocks and tackles.
Samuel Umtiti – 6/10
The French defender was not tested as much since he only really had to deal with counter attacks, which he did with relative ease. However, he did give the ball away a few times during the first half due to poor control and touch, and was partly a reason why the defence allowed Girona a number of chances.
Jordi Alba – 8.5/10
Jordi Alba was responsible for the first goal and was quite incisive all through the night. He did not hesitate to move into advanced positions but he did struggle to get back defensively on occasion. Alba also had a great chance to make it 2-0 but was denied by Girona keeper Gorka Iraizoz.
Ivan Rakitic – 6/10
The Croatian looked uneasy since he was deployed in an unfamiliar holding midfield role on Saturday as Valverde played him deeper in midfield than usual, giving him the position usually occupied by Sergio Busquets. Although Rakitic stuck to his role well, he gave the ball away too much in the first half, slowly growing into the role.
Paulinho – 5/10
Paulinho may have failed to score but he was productive in the first-half. In the second-half though, the Brazilian seemed to have lost his edge. A couple of moves with Aleix Vidal did not yield anything, while he headed a Rakitic corner wide. Going forward, Paulinho often left a lot of space behind him, which could’ve been dangerous.
Andres Iniesta – 6/10
Another game in which he was expected to be rested, another game in which Valverde chose to start him. One cannot blame him either since Busquets aside, Iniesta is the only midfielder experienced enough to successfully control a game.
And, the Barcelona captain bought time when he was on the ball against Girona but was unable to make much an impact. Perhaps a rest in one of the coming games would go a long way in bringing the best out of the veteran midfielder.
Aleix Vidal – 7/10
Vidal was effective on the right flank. One of Barcelona’s better players on the night, he never hesitated to surge forward and was responsible for creating the second goal with a back-heel. However, the player missed an early chance to give Barca the lead.
Luis Suarez – 6/10
Suarez was rested against Eibar to ensure he unleashes his fiery form at Girona but that wasn’t the case. The Uruguay international missed several chances and was offside at times. Suarez still managed to fight through and his persistence led to Barcelona’s third goal.
Lionel Messi – 6/10
The prolific Argentine cut a sorry figure on field largely due to the impressive marking by Pablo Maffeo. Every time he got the ball, the Manchester City loanee ensured he restricted Messi. He did come close from a free kick in the first half, but was denied by a save from Iraizoz.
Sergio Busquets – 6/10
Busquets was called on to establish control in midfield and he did his duty diligently.
Denis Suarez – N/A
Denis Suarez came on as a late introduction for Iniesta.
Andre Gomes – N/A
Gomes came in place of Vidal during the final few minutes.