Barcelona were made to work hard for all three points by a spirited Leganes side, with Ousmane Dembele inspiring a 3-1 win at Camp Nou on Sunday.
The hosts were dominant in the early exchanges, with Ousmane Dembele setting the pace for them. And, it was the Frenchman who ended up breaking the deadlock in the 32nd minute, producing a superb first-time finish from Jordi Alba’s cut-back to score his 13th goal of the season.
Dembele continued creating most of the opportunities for Barcelona, but Leganes ended up equalising through Martin Braithwaite, who continued his fine start with Los Pepineros, having also scored against Real Madrid earlier in the week. The Middlesbrough loanee made no mistake in finishing from close range after some excellent work by Youssef En-Nesyri.
But, after Leganes had equalised against the run of play, Barcelona soon regained control of the proceedings, with the introduction of Lionel Messi changing the course of the game. The club captain indirectly set up the winner, as Luis Suarez was in the right place at the right time after Messi’s shot had been saved by Ivan Cuellar.
ＦULL ＴIME — There's the whistle! Barça have their 7th win in a row!
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 20, 2019
Messi then went on to round off the win in injury time, rekindling his partnership with Alba, who provided his second assist of the game. Barcelona thus, reopened their five-point lead atop the table, with bitter rivals Real Madrid a further five points adrift. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Ernesto Valverde’s men.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 6/10
In what was his 100th La Liga game, ter Stegen barely had anything to do, with Barcelona dominating the proceedings. As is usually the case with him, the German goalkeeper dominated the ball efficiently while also taking control of his area. Could not have done anything about Braithwaite’s goal.
Sergi Roberto: 6/10
Valverde continued his rotation of Semedo and Roberto on Sunday. The Spaniard though, was far from his best against Leganes, struggling to link up well in the final third while also struggling defensively at times. But, this was only a rare failure and the versatile superstar will surely pick himself up.
Gerard Pique: 7/10
On a solid run of form, Pique continued with another assured performance, keeping a check on Martin Braithwaite for the most part. Contributed going forward as well, staying strong and laying the ball for Carles Alena before Ousmane Dembele eventually finished the goal.
Thomas Vermaelen: 6/10
A shock name in the starting lineup, considering he had only recently returned to full training. But, Vermaelen was solid for the most part on Sunday, although a rare forgettable moment essentially gifted Leganes their goal. Nevertheless, it was a step in the right direction for the injury riddled Belgian.
Jordi Alba: 8/10
Jordi Alba’s game by numbers vs. Leganés:
86.8% pass accuracy
4 chances created
2 aerial duels won
“There’s no better left-back on the planet right now.” 👀 pic.twitter.com/U4B5mLAI8D
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 20, 2019
After a subdued performance against Levante in the midweek, Alba rediscovered his best form on Sunday. The Spaniard, in fact, served up two goals on a silver platter, showing impeccable understanding with both Dembele and Lionel Messi.
Solid in defence for the most part, but a rare mistake let Leganes in on goal before Braithwaite eventually scored. Otherwise, Alba was superb on both ends, with his attacking contribution, in particular, being eye catching.
Sergio Busquets: 6/10
Back into the starting lineup after being rested in the cup tie, Busquets directed traffic quite effortlessly. Off the ball though, the veteran holding midfielder was a little tentative at times, with an early booking leaving him on his toes. Otherwise, this was a typical Busquets performance.
Carles Alena: 8/10
Carles Aleñá's game by numbers vs. Leganés:
100% take-ons completed
94% pass accuracy
2 chances created
2 fouls won
A promising full LaLiga debut. pic.twitter.com/K58698VRT3
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 20, 2019
Alena was handed his full La Liga debut against Leganes, and it is safe to say that he repaid Valverde’s faith in kind. Taking on the role that Ivan Rakitic usually does in the middle of the park, the La Masia product drove Barcelona forward, showing a lot of desire and urgency to make things happen for his side. Alena also showed great link-up with Dembele and should be in for a longer run in the side.
Arthur was as Arthur usually is, light on his feet and picking the right pass almost every single time. But, with Alena in such fine form, the Brazilian almost took the back seat and let the young Spaniard shine in the spotlight while ably supporting him in midfield. A true asset for Valverde.
Ousmane Dembele: 9/10
Ousmane Dembélé's last five starts for Barcelona at Camp Nou – dribbles completed and attempted:
8/10 • vs Villarreal
3/3 • vs Tottenham Hotspur
1/4 • vs RC Celta Vigo
7/8 • vs Levante
11/15 • vs CD Léganes
Sometimes unplayable, often successful, always entertaining. pic.twitter.com/v5d6iVFXE4
— Scouted Football (@ScoutedFtbl) January 20, 2019
Dembele has been one of the biggest reason why Barcelona have continued winning despite not being at their fluent best in recent weeks. And, the Frenchman was in his elements once again on Sunday, looking to leave the Leganes defenders in sixes and sevens at every given opportunity.
The numbers tell the tale too, as Dembele completed 11 dribbles on Sunday, the most by a player in a La Liga game this season. His link-up with Alena and Alba for his goal was right out the top drawer as well, as was the superb first-time finish into the bottom right corner. But, the injury he picked up midway through the second half will surely be a concern.
Luis Suarez: 6/10
Suarez may have been the man in form for Barcelona heading into the game. But, on Sunday, the Uruguayan striker struggled quite a bit, failing to get into scoring areas while also taking a few too many heavy touches. But, he never gave up, and showed brilliant positioning to score the winner.
Philippe Coutinho: 5/10
Coutinho is having a season to forget. And, his outing on Sunday will only further deepen his woes, with the Brazilian being quite predictable in his output. Just can’t seem to get out of the rut he finds himself in, although Dembele’s injury might end up being the silver lining he needs to resurrect his season.
Ivan Rakitic: 7/10
On for the brilliant Alena, Rakitic continued from where the academy graduate had left off, although there was no real need for him, considering how well the youngster was doing. Still, he ensured his side saw the game out without any further hassles.
Lionel Messi: 8/10
With Barcelona in need of an inspiration, Messi produced his umpteenth pivotal performance, this time from the bench. He first grabbed an assist for Suarez’s goal after Cuellar had saved his effort before rounding off the win by showcasing his exemplary partnership with Alba and scoring his 18th league goal of the season.
In the process, he created another record – Messi now has the most goals as a substitute in La Liga (22) in the 21st century.
Replaced the injured Dembele, but was a far cry from the domineering Frenchman. Another player who is in genuine need of an inspiration.