Ousmane Dembele made the difference as Barcelona eked out a 1-0 win over Real Valladolid at Camp Nou on Monday.
The first half was one to forget for Barcelona, who were given a run for their money by a spirited Real Valladolid side that nearly took an early lead when Kenan Kodro headed against the woodwork. Roque Mesa then spurned a couple of chances while ahead of half-time, Pedri was denied by Jordi Masip, who parried his shot onto the crossbar.
Post the interval, it was more of the same, although this time, it was Barcelona who were looking likelier to break the deadlock, with Masip once again remaining defiant in goal. The hosts were handed a numerical advantage thanks to some bizarre piece of refereeing, as Oscar Plano was shown a red card for a challenge on Ousmane Dembele.
And, as the game was approaching full-time, Barcelona would make their advantage count, with Dembele producing a stunning left-footed finish to seal a late win for his side. The result meant Barcelona are now just a point adrift of La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid, who were beaten by Sevilla on Sunday. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Ronald Koeman’s men.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 6/10
Unlike his counterpart in the Real Valladolid goal, there was precious little that ter Stegen had to do between the sticks apart from making a couple of regulation stops. The Barcelona no. 1 did suffer a scare early on when Kenan Kodro headed against the woodwork but came through unscathed in the end.
Oscar Mingueza: 6/10
A decent enough display by Mingueza, who was not troubled all that much, although he did remain solid on the occasions when he was put under pressure. Kept things simple with the ball at his feet, misplacing just 3 passes all game, while also aiming a shot at goal.
Frenkie de Jong: 8/10
Infographic: Frenkie De Jong's stats vs Valladolid.
– 93/98 passes completed
– 5 duels won
– 4 recoveries pic.twitter.com/lPFq4yImbO
— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) April 5, 2021
Commanding as ever from de Jong, who showcased his versatility brilliantly, first holding the fort superbly at the back before providing Barcelona more control after moving into the midfield. Played as many as 3 key passes – only Lionel Messi had more in the game – while also retaining an excellent 95 percent pass completion rate. Solid off the ball as well, winning 4 duels while making 4 recoveries.
Clement Lenglet: 7/10
A top-notch effort by Lenglet, who was quite busy at the back, particularly in the first half. Over the course of the game, he won 11 duels while making 6 clearances, including one to deny Sergi Guardiola early on. A tad bit wasteful on the ball, but that was his only major shortcoming on the night. Slowly getting back to his best.
Sergino Dest: 6/10
Not the best of outings for Dest, who, despite retaining an otherwise impressive 93 percent passing rate, made little to no impact in the final third. Quite unusual for the USMNT international, who just could not manage to influence the proceedings as he does more often than not.
Sergio Busquets: 7/10
In what was a typically astute performance by Busquets, the veteran midfielder hardly ever lost the ball and kept play ticking constantly. Solid as ever off the ball, the Spanish international made a number of recoveries while winning 3 duels. Not too penetrative with his passes this time around, though.
A game of hits and misses for Pedri. While the teenage prodigy could easily have celebrated a goal if not for a fine save by Jordi Masip, he was not quite at his incisive best on the ball. There is a sense that the sheer number of minutes is starting to have its effect on the young Spanish international, who looked a bit jaded at times.
Jordi Alba: 6/10
Like Dest on the right flank, Alba was not at his marauding best despite having a game-high 115 touches. Managed to play in just the one key pass, although he did put in the hard yards on and off the ball, going up and down his flank all night. Sloppy on the ball, though, on occasions, losing possession as many as 23 times in the game.
Lionel Messi: 7/10
Messi was as Messi usually is at the very least, a menace for the opposition defence. The Barcelona captain played as many as 5 key passes while aiming 7 shots at goal. On another day, he could have easily celebrated a haul of a goal and an assist, but it was not to be on Monday. In the end, it was the first La Liga game in 2021 in which Messi did not have a direct contribution at goal.
Antoine Griezmann: 6/10
A night on which nothing that Griezmann tried worked out one bit. Managed just a couple of shots on goal and should have scored from the rebound when Masip had denied Ousmane Dembele from close range. Typically industrious off the ball, though, running his socks off to win the ball back quickly from Real Valladolid.
Ousmane Dembele: 8/10
90' – @Dembouz 🇫🇷 has scored the first 1-0 winning goal in 90' for @FCBarcelona at home in #LaLiga this century; the first one since Sergio Busquets at Mestalla in November 2014. Agonizing#BarcaRealValladolid #BarcelonaValladolid pic.twitter.com/9LBIrasqlD
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) April 5, 2021
The player who made all the difference in the end. Dembele tried and tried and tried all night before it finally clicked for him. The Frenchman, who had six shots on goal, ought to have buried at least a couple of openings. Having said that, the finish for his goal was simply exquisite; another critical goal from the boots of Dembele.
Ronald Araujo: 7/10
Did not have a lot of defending to do late on, especially after Real Valladolid were reduced to 10 men. Ended the match with an assist, as his headed effort sent the ball towards Dembele, who netted the winner.
Francisco Trincao: 7/10
A decent enough cameo for Trincao, who got into dangerous areas and managed two key passes despite playing just a quarter of the game. Completed each of his 16 attempted passes as well.
Martin Braithwaite: 5/10
Anonymous after coming on, Braithwaite managed just 5 touches despite being on the pitch for nearly half an hour.
Ilaix Moriba: N/A
On for Pedri, Moriba tried to make things happen and still retained a 100 percent pass competition rate. Did not make a huge impact late on, though.
Riqui Puig: N/A
A late introduction, Puig barely had any time to make an impact.