Player ratings as Riqui Puig seals victory for Barca without Messi
Barcelona took four wins on the spin at the expense of relegation wrestlers Elche on Sunday afternoon, as goals from Frenkie de Jong and Riqui Puig ensured a comfortable victory for Ronald Koeman’s side.
Barca were without Lionel Messi suspended, but controlled the early proceedings without their captain and it started to seem like a question of when, not if, they would open the scoring.
The breakthrough finally came when Gonzalu Verdu managed a cross from the left before Antoine Griezmann, but could only send him to his own goal line, where De Jong waited to convert the easiest goal of his life.
Elche should have equalized when a punching pass from Samuel Umtiti wreaked havoc and left Emiliano Rigoni with a head to head, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen was tied in his only notable action in the game.
It was easy from there for Barca who continued to threaten, and they eventually doubled their lead. De Jong got off to a great run and picked Puig, who climbed to his first senior goal in the 89th minute. And that’s all she wrote.
Let’s move on to some player reviews!
Marc-André ter Stegen (GK) – 6/10 – Effectively played for 90 minutes, not that the camera had panned as far as its lens often enough to confirm. A good stop at the feet of Rigoni just before the hour.
Oscar Mingueza (RB) – 5/10 – The young center-back filled in the right-back in the absence of Sergino Dest and Sergi Roberto, and looked like a center-back replacing the right-back. Lots of energy and effort, but his final product lacked quality and his decision-making on the ball was sometimes poor.
Ronald Araujo (CB) – 6/10 – Not much to report on Araujo’s return to the squad as he delivered a competent, no-frills performance.
Samuel Umtiti (CB) – 6/10 – Little shaking. Slipped to let Josan pass at the end of the first half and gave Elche his best chance of the game when he sold his partner by overplaying a routine pass. Otherwise, the key to his team’s possession game – saw more ball and made more passes than any other player on the pitch.
Jordi Alba (LB) – 7/10 – Started slowly but grew in the game and started directing traffic on Barca’s left flank. Influential display.
Sergio Busquets (CM) – 6/10 – Barcelona committed seven fouls – five of which were Busquets. Rightly reserved to prevent a counterattack, but much more than its persistent fouling.
Frenkie de Jong (CM) – 8/10 – He broke his stomach to get to the back post for the easiest goal he will ever score. Would have gone anyway – just charity from the Dutchman to keep him from becoming Verdi OG. Then provided one of the season’s assists with a magnificent run and cross for Puig.
Pedri (AM) – 8/10 – Another who started out slow but impressed as the game progressed. Immaculate with his passes, created more chances than any other player on the pitch and showed real quality flashes on the turn.
Ousmane Dembele (RW) – 8/10 – Caused problems in his quick deliveries and should have secured an assist on an early free-kick that Griezmann could only direct into the keeper’s throat. Intensified in the absence of Messi – the brightest of Barca’s four forward.
Martin Braithwaite (CF) – 6/10 – Held the ball reasonably but his movement was not ambitious. The fewer touches from an outside Barca player indicated ineffective performance.
Antoine Griezmann (LW) – 7/10 – Wasted with his finish but smart with his movement coming from the left. Not his best individual display but an effective contribution to a good team performance.
Francisco Trincao (Dembele, 74) – 6/10 – Made his mark with a few menacing dribbles as Barca looked for a second goal.
Riqui Puig (Pedri, 87) – 6/10 – The 87, objective 89. Not a bad day of work.