Gavi was the star of the show as Barcelona pulled off a dramatic 3-2 victory over Elche at Camp Nou in the 2021/22 La Liga on Saturday.
Needing a win after three games without one in all competitions, Barcelona made a fine start to the contest at Camp Nou, putting Elche under pressure early on and finding a breakthrough just 16 minutes into the game as Ferran Jutgla found the back of the net. Three minutes later, the Blaugrana two goals up courtesy of a brilliant individual strike from midfield sensation Gavi.
Elche did pose a threat going forward in the first period but could not get a goal back, while Barcelona wasted a couple of decent chances to add to their tally as half-time arrived. The hosts were in control for the opening quarter of the second period but were then hit with a couple of quickfire strikes from Tete Morente and Pere Milla, who capitalised on some shocking defensive lapses from the Catalan giants.
With the score at 2-2, both teams pressed for a winner, but one was not forthcoming, and it seemed like Barcelona and Elche would be sharing the spoils. However, Substitute Nico Gonzalez had other ideas, as he fired in a powerful finish in the 85th minute to lead the Blaugrana to a hugely important win.
The result takes Barça to seventh place in the La Liga table, three points shy of Rayo Vallecano in fourth place. Here is how we rated the performances of Xavi Hernandez’s men on the night against Elche.
Barcelona Player Ratings
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 5/10
Another unconvincing performance from the German international between the sticks amid clamours from fans to replace him. Ter Stegen never really inspired confidence at the back and was too static for Elche’s first goal, while there was not much he could have done for the second. While his defence let him down, the ex-Borussia Monchengladbach ace will need to up his game as well.
Ronald Araujo: 5/10
The Uruguayan international seemed confused in his hybrid role on the right side of the defence, which required him to play as a right-back and a centre-back. As a result, his positioning was off on several occasions, which Elche looked to exploit. The 22-year-old was also caught out of position leading to the visitors’ second goal.
Eric Garcia: 5/10
Reinstated to the starting XI in the absence of Gerard Pique, the Spaniard was again unconvincing at the heart of the defence. While Garcia looks comfortable and composed on the ball, he needed to be smarter with his passing choices. Defensively, his performance left a lot to be desired. There were some rash challenges throughout the game while he was beaten off easily in the buildup to the first goal.
Clement Lenglet: 5/10
The Frenchman got the nod over compatriot Samuel Umtiti but failed to make the most of his chance. There were moments when he was good on the ball and got the assist for Gavi’s goal. Defensively, though, Lenglet was hardly assured when the Elche attackers ran at him and with Jordi Alba leaving spaces open on the left, he had a lot of covering to do, which he was not always able to do.
Frenkie de Jong: 5.5/10
— BarçaTimes (@BarcaTimes) December 18, 2021
A slight improvement compared to his performance against Osasuna, but De Jong once again left a lot to be desired on Saturday. The Dutchman showed off some slick touches and passes in the first half but was unable to have any impact overall. Faded after the break and was whistled off the pitch by the Camp Nou faithful.
Sergio Busquets: 6.5/10
The Barcelona captain looked solid and assured in the middle of the park. He constantly regained possession (14 ball recoveries) while setting his attacking teammates off on their way with some good-looking and accurate forward passes. Busquets kept things tight and organised in the centre.
Jordi Alba: 6/10
Back to full fitness and reinstated to the lineup, Alba was playing a different role than his usual left-back duties. Playing almost as an inverted full-back, the Spaniard drifted in centrally and looked to stitch play up while there were occasions when he stayed out wide and provided width going forward. Alba even created a couple of good chances but left spaces wide open at the back and was out of position for the first goal.
GAVI GOAL ? pic.twitter.com/FmDQP9GL1G
— MV (@MohaneshV) December 18, 2021
The best player on the pitch, and by some distance at that. On Saturday, the 17-year-old was the beating heart of this Barcelona side as he ran hard, pressed the opposition incessantly, drove forward when in possession, and attempted to create chances. Gavi pulled off a stunning turn before breezing past Elche defenders to fire the ball into the back of the net to make it 2-0.
Asked to play as a centre-forward in the closing stages of the contest, Gavi then got the assist for the match-winning goal as he set Nico up after some brilliant link-up play. Barcelona have a true gem on their hands in the teenage prodigy.
Ousmane Dembele: 7.5/10
A lively display from the Barcelona contract rebel who was a handful for the visitors to deal with when running at them with full pace. Dembele got the assist for the opening goal of the game and played a match-high three key passes on the evening. He was also involved in the buildup to the third goal.
Ferran Jutgla: 8/10
Ferran Jutgla scores on his first start for Barcelona! ?
Xavi's youth movement continues ?? pic.twitter.com/BcXsQXtQXN
— Premier Sports (@PremierSportsTV) December 18, 2021
Making his full debut for the senior team, the 22-year-old looked at home in the centre-forward role despite being a wide player. Jutgla was a thorn in the side for the Elche defence with his intelligent movement and showed the goalscoring instincts that Barcelona have missed of late. Had a strike ruled out for offside just two minutes into the game but found the back of the net again to make it 1-0 with a good header.
The summer signing had another shot saved later in the first half while he could not direct an effort on goal soon after Elche had equalised in the second period. His sharp movement also created space for Gavi to run into for his second goal, while his link-up play was very impressive as well.
Abde Ezzalzouli: 7/10
The Player to Watch out in our match preview, the Moroccan winger, who turned 20 on Friday, celebrated his birthday with yet another purposeful display. While Abde might not have scored or assisted a goal on the evening, his pace, directness and willingness to take on defenders made him a major threat from the left flank. He played two key passes and completed a game-high seven dribbles as well.
Abde completed 7 successful dribbles yesterday
He has now 29 successful dribbles in 391 minutes of La Liga football
6.67 dribbles per 90
The best rate in La Liga pic.twitter.com/VnxsSRAxCE
— La Croqueta (@LaCroqueta05) December 19, 2021
Nico Gonzalez: 7/10
The La Masia midfielder came on for Jutgla with less than 20 minutes left. He had a couple of shots blocked before rifling in the winning goal of the game late on.
Riqui Puig: N/A
Sent on in place of De Jong with less than 15 minutes left.
Alejandro Balde: N/A
Late sub for Abde.