All eyes are on the Copa Del Rey semifinal against Real Madrid. But first up, a tune up of sorts against dead last Elche, who are certain to be relegated from La Liga barring unforeseen circumstances.
How did Barca fare?
Well, let’s find out.
As expected, Barca’s initial rush against Elche proved to be enlightening.
They dominated possession, looked very hard for dangerous scoring chances, and had a certain extra step among themselves to go forward with conviction and determination.
The only flaw Barca had — or flaws — were the squad’s struggles with consistently playing out of the back while withstanding Elche’s pressure. Barca’s midfield coming into the game was a makeshift one — Eric Garcia as a pivot, Gavi, and Sergi Roberto — so the struggles were kind of expected.
But still, this quality should’ve been enough to at least control the game for the most part.
Other than those struggles though, Barca seemed comfortable in the first half. So comfortable that they jumped out to an early lead in the half, courtesy of a goal from Robert Lewandowski.
Lewandowski opens the scoring
It was a gritty goal from Lewandowski if anything.
The Polish star took control of a pass headed down by Ronald Araujo, before calmly lifting a shot over the Elche defense, past the goalkeeper, and into the back of the net for an easy 1-0 lead.
Sure the goal could’ve been prettier, but I don’t think Barca or Lewandowski really cares about the style. As long as the goal counts, they’ll surely be satisfied.
And rightfully so.
Barca had a few more chances to score another before the end of the half, with Lewandowski and surprisingly Jules Kounde being the two culprits.
Lewandowski’s chance was more clear cut, as he couldn’t control a Ferran Torres cross well enough to guide the header into the back of the net. Kounde on the other hand, his chance was a bit more chaotic.
Pablo Gavi sent Kounde a pass, which left him in a very good spot to score another goal. But his shot was blocked by Omar Mascarell, who brilliantly sat himself far post in expectation of the location of Kounde’s shot.
These would’ve been great goals to have, but unfortunately the cards weren’t just right for Barca.
After these chances, halftime arrived, with Barca holding on to a 1-0 lead but with more hopefully yet to come. The second half provided Barca with those hopes, but would they turn those hopes into reality?
Let’s just say they did that and more.
The second half was all about Barca and all about their ability to be clinical in front of goal.
The best chance at that time, came in the 56th minute, when Ansu Fati found himself in a 1v1 opportunity down the central area of Elche’s defense.
Ansu Fati hushes the doubters
Fati had a big moment in front of him during the 1v1 sequence. He didn’t show off the explosiveness he had in the past, but what he did show was a good understanding of his surroundings and a powerful left foot to boot.
He opened up some space for his right foot, then fired a shot towards the bottom left corner. It slid right past Elche’s keeper, into the back of the net, therefore putting a second goal on the tally for Barca.
The goal meant more in the moment for Ansu, mostly because of the problematic comments made by his father earlier this week.
The swirl of turmoil and stress surely was weighing on Ansu’s mind, so it was good to see him get a goal, while hopefully securing a little more confidence, which will undoubtedly help him prove him haters wrong throughout the rest of the season.
After this goal, the danger chances kept coming.
And with those increasing, so did the goals.
Lewandowski secures his brace
This time it was a familiar face who scored, as it was Lewandowski who scored his second and gave Barca a 3-0 lead.
Lewandowski has Gavi to thank for the opportunity, as it was his ball retrieval deep in Elche’s defensive third that allowed Gavi to send Robert in on goal.
The finish from Lewandowski was still sublime though, so you can’t take away his involvement as well.
Barca could’ve rode this out without trying too hard for a 4th goal, but there are some hungry players in this squad, all of which would love to score and inject themselves with some confidence.
One of those players is Ferran Torres, somewhat of an afterthought after he arrived in Barca just over a year ago for an expensive fee.
Now getting his chance, he felt like he needed to get in on the fun, and that he did.
Ferran Torres gets in on the fun
Torres’ goal was a good example of patience and intelligence within the final third of the attack.
He used a good ball over the top, controlled it, and maneuvered into the central area so he could pick out the best possible course of action.
He had a couple runners with him, one on each side. But instead of looking for a pass, Torres manipulated one of his own runners to open up a shooting space for himself, then immediately he took a left footed curling shot and sent it into the net.
The knack of Ferran has been his finishing, as he’s missed a number of big chances throughout his Barca career.
But his ability to maneuver through space, his attacking intelligence, and his off ball prowess still remains even with the struggles. We saw that on display with this goal, which certainly should boost his confidence as well.
With this goal, Barca went into a bit of a hibernation mode, as they tried to see the game out without any concessions and injuries. Once this occurred, the remaining time trimmed down fast, and subsequently ran out, as Barca secured a good 4-0 win away from home.
This match was supposed to be easy, but there’s still no guarantees in the world of football.
Barca took care of business in an exciting way, with goals galore, and even some exciting minutes from Pablo Torre and La Masia prospect Aleix Garrido. Who by the way, is an intriguing midfield prospect that Xavi himself rates pretty highly.
Aside from the goals, Barca came out of the match without any injuries, which was another good conclusion as well. Since Barca has been snakebitten by injuries so far this season, more specifically this second half of the season.
Now with this little tune up out of the way, attention turns to the final leg of the Copa Del Rey semifinal against bitter rivals Real Madrid.
There’s still some injury questions regarding Frenkie De Jong and Ousmane Dembele, but for now, savor this win and enjoy the build up to the important match against Madrid.
Barca’s next match
Barca’s next match will be on Wednesday, as they take on Real Madrid in the second leg of the Copa Del Rey semifinal.
The match will start at 9 PM local time.
See you all then!
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