A late Lionel Messi freekick helped secure all three points for Barcelona against a resilient Deportivo Alaves side at the Nou Camp.
The Blaugrana fell behind to a John Guidetti goal in the 23rd minute. As expected they did retain most of the possession throughout the game, but Alaves defended brilliantly for the most part. They cut off channels, isolated players and made the occasional foray forward.
But Barcelona’s persistence ultimately paid off, as Luis Suarez pulled one back for his side in the 72nd minute and then they required a little bit of Lionel Messi magic to help them over the line. A stunning left footed curler was sent straight into the top corner in the 84th minute. Pacheco stood no chance.
Marc Andre ter Stegen: 7
The German shot stopper could do nothing for the goal, but he kept his side in the game with some fine saves. Had it not been for his interventions, Barcelona recovering from a potential three-goal deficit in this game would’ve been highly unlikely.
Nelson Semedo: 6
Tried to contribute going forward, but couldn’t balance his defensive and offensive responsibilities well enough for Valerde’s liking. Rightly subbed off for Sergi Roberto in the 52nd minute.
Gerard Pique: 6
Pique needed some time to get into the thick of things, but was a steady figure in defence. Gave the ball away a bit too much. But, he did try to contribute going forward as much as possible.
Samuel Umtiti: 6
Umtiti was uncharacteristically caught out of position and was punished, as John Guidetti capitalised on the space afforded to him to open the scoring for the visitors. Not his best performance this season, but the Frenchman got his act together to hold off Guidetti & co. for the rest of the night.
Lucas Digne: 6
Like Semedo, he was subbed off in the 52nd minute. Had a fairly good game until then, but couldn’t offer the kind of attacking threat that Alba does. Looked a bit overwhelmed at times. There will better days ahead for the Frenchman.
Ivan Rakitic: 7.5
The Croat had a superb outing. Kept things moving in the middle of the park and distributed intelligently, but also worked hard off the ball. Won all but one of his eight aerial duels and made a number of key interceptions. A good all round performance from the 29-year-old.
Recovered possession well for his side and worked extremely hard, as usual. Helped his side switch from defence to attack. However, he didn’t offer much in attack. A good game nonetheless from the industrious Brazilian.
Andres Iniesta: 7.5
Set up Luis Suarez’s goal with a superb run and pass from the left wing. Helped run the show from midfield with Rakitic. The stalwart still has some life in those legs and can certainly contribute when it matters. A good game from the Spaniard.
Philippe Coutinho: 6
The Brazilian didn’t have a debut to remember. He was hauled off after 66 minutes, failing to make any sort of impact. Did well when in possession, but seems like he’s still getting used to the hang of things at his new home. Subbed off just after the house mark.
Lionel Messi: 8
It wasn’t one of the best games by the Argentine this season, but his late free-kick did secure all three points for Barcelona, so Valverde is unlikely to be losing too much sleep over this performance. Alaves barely went forward and focused on keeping him as contained as possible.
For the most part, they managed to do quite well, until the free-kick. As expected, he was at the centre of all of Barcelona’s forays forward and threatened to get on the scoresheet on a few occasions. But, there have been and will be better days for the 30-year-old.
Luis Suarez: 8
The Uruguayan has well and truly found his old form back. After an extremely difficult first half of the season, he picked up his form in December and there has been no looking back since. Scored the all important equalizer from a difficult angle to bring Barcelona back into the game.
He was a constant threat to Alaves’ defenders and while they did manage to keep him quiet by cutting off service to him for the most part, the former Liverpool attacker’s persistence eventually paid off. This takes his tally to 11 goals in his previous 8 La Liga games.
Jordi Alba: 7
The former Valencia full-back was brought on to replace Lucas Digne, who himself was having a fairly good game until then. He did well going forward and gave Barcelona another, more direct attacking threat from the wings.
Sergi Roberto: 7
Was brought on to replace Nelson Semedo at right-back. Like Alba, he was meant to contribute to Barcelona’s cause going forward. The Spaniard had a good game defensively as well, didn’t make any costly errors and had a good outing overall.
Paco Alcacer: 6
The Spaniard was brought on in the 66th minute and while he didn’t contribute with a goal or assist, he did win the free-kick from which Messi scored the winner. Kept the Alaves defenders busy for the most part and worked hard.