A second-half blitzkrieg from Barcelona sank bottom-ranked Elche, as the Catalans defeated the visitors 3-0 at the Camp Nou.
With a key fixture against Sevilla on the weekend, Ronald Koeman rotated his troops for this game with Martin Braithwaite getting a rare start in attack.
It was the visitors who had the first chance of the game in the 4th minute, when Lucas Boye got into a good position from Johan Mojica’s cross but his shot was well over the bar. Trincao had the best opportunity of the half in the 19th minute, as he dribbled past two players with only the keeper to beat, however, his shot was saved exceptionally well by Edgar Badia in Elche’s goal.
Los Franjiverdes were well organized and maintained a high press, not giving the hosts any space between the lines in the opening half. Nonetheless, the inevitable Lionel Messi scored the opener, couple of minutes into the second half, after a quick one-two with Martin Braithwaite, with Badia getting only his fingertips to the shot.
Koeman’s temporary switch from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1, with Messi in a free role, paid dividends as they moved the ball a lot quicker and with more precision in the opposition half. In the 68th minute, Frenkie De Jong went on a mazy run from his own half through Elche’s defence to set it on the plate for Messi and Barcelona’s second of the evening.
Four minutes later, Messi once again showed us why he is still the best player in the world with a wonderful lobbed pass to Braithwaite, whose headed effort assisted Jordi Alba for the third goal. Koeman will be delighted with his team’s performance and will look forward to the game against Sevilla with great enthusiasm. Let us take a look at how the Dutchman’s team fared.
Marc Andre Ter Stegen: 6/10
Barely called into action throughout the game. A mere spectator for the entire 90 minutes, will not get an easier fixture than this.
Oscar Mingueza: 6.5/10
He was given a run in the first-team in place of Sergino Dest and the young Spaniard was not as effective going forward. Defensively, he looked solid as Elche’s attack looked toothless after the restart.
Gerard Pique: 7/10
Showed his experience in dealing with the counter attack from Elche in the first half. Hardly had to do anything post the break as the Catalans upped the ante. Was replaced by Clement Lenglet in the 77th minute.
Samuel Umtiti: 7/10
Looked comfortable against Elche’s attack all evening. Rarely misplaced any passes and played some majestic long passes to his forwards.
Jordi Alba: 7/10
A rather quiet first half from the Spanish full-back, gave the ball away cheaply on a couple of occasions in his own half. But grew into his own in the second half and capped it with a goal that sealed the win for the hosts. Replaced by Sergino Dest in the 77th minute.
Frenkie De Jong: 8.5 /10
Frenkie De Jong's game by numbers vs. Elche:
◉ Most touches (113)
◉ Most passes (103)
◎ 100% take-ons completed
◎ 91% pass accuracy
◎ 6 ball recoveries
◎ 4/5 duels won
◎ 3 chances created
◎ 3 take-ons
◎ 1 assist
Silky stuff. pic.twitter.com/pRw82GJnu4
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 24, 2021
Misplaced a few passes early on but showed his world-class ability to carry the ball forward from midfield, made some brilliant runs into the box. Manufactured a sublime run from his own half into Elche’s box to set up Messi for the second goal. A top display from the young Dutchman.
Miralem Pjanic: 4.5/10
Struggled to get his passes going as he looked completely off the pace in the first half. Subbed off for Ousmane Dembele during the break.
Showcased his obvious talent with some intricate passing in the opposition half but lacked the final ball in the opening 45 minutes. Had to play a deeper role post the restart and he displayed some wonderful defensive abilities, reading the game well to break any Elche attacks from developing. A well rounded display from the teenager.
72/79 passing (91%)
3 successful tackles*
*led game pic.twitter.com/HVvqSX5gDs
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) February 24, 2021
Francisco Trincao: 6.5/10
Had the best chance of the game as he dinked past two Elche defenders in the box but his shot was saved brilliantly by Badia. Troubled the Elche defence on more than one occasions. Surprisingly subbed for Busquets in the 66th minute.
Martin Braithwaite: 7.5/10
A rather poor first half display from the forward as he was let down by his first touch. His link up with his teammates was sub-par and looked out of depth whenever in possession. Improved tremendously in the second half as he provided Messi with an assist for the opener.
Got his second assist of the game as he headed a lobbed pass by Messi onto Jordi Alba’s path for the Blaugrana’s third goal. Subbed immediately after for Griezmann.
Lionel Messi: 9.5/10
Lionel Messi is now La Liga's outright top scorer this season with 17 goals 🔥 pic.twitter.com/qx4el6LxEX
— B/R Football (@brfootball) February 24, 2021
Had to drop deep in search of possession as he was not given a lot of time to settle on the ball, created the best chance of the opening half with a delicate through pass to Trincao, which the latter failed to convert. Two minutes into the restart the Argentine ran at the Elche defence, and after a quick exchange with Braithwate, scored past a helpless Badia.
A superb run from De Jong set up the Argentine’s second of the evening. Created the third with a sublime pass to Braithwaite who assisted Jordi Alba for an easy finish.
Ousmane Dembele: 5/10
Absolute anonymous display from the Frenchmen after being subbed in place of Pjanic at half-time. Did not do anything worthy of warranting a place in the weekend against Sevilla.
Sergio Busquets: 7/10
Added steel to the Catalan midfield with some timely tackles and distributed the ball well. His calm presence in midfield ensured a smooth passage for this victory.
Antoine Griezmann: 6/10
Hit the bar after being set up by Sergino Dest, did not have much to do post that. Ran his channels well.
Sergino Dest: 6/10
Replaced Alba in the 77th minute, made some really good runs on the left flank and almost set up Griezmann for the fourth goal, but the Frenchman’s shot hit the bar.
Clement Lenglet: N/A
Subbed in for Pique, he had nothing noteworthy to do in defence as the game was well and truly over by then.