Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sergio Busquets stood out as Barcelona grabbed a 4-1 win over Valencia at the Mestalla on Sunday.
Barcelona started the game brightly and dominated the proceedings for most of the first half. The visitors were outstanding in the opening period and deserved the lead when they broke the deadlock in the 23rd minute through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who converted Jordi Alba’s floated pass.
The Catalan giants were two to the good shortly after the half-hour mark, as Frenkie de Jong finished off a superb move that saw Sergio Busquets and Ousmane Dembele combine brilliantly. And Barcelona’s lead was trebled ahead of half-time, with Aubameyang doubling his tally after a nice link-up with Gavi.
Barcelona came out of the break full of confidence, but Valencia responded well, pulling a goal back through Carlos Soler in the 52nd minute. But the hosts’ resistance ended ten minutes later when Pedri struck a wonderful long-range strike to restore Barcelona’s three-goal advantage, although the goal was awarded to Aubameyang due to a deflection off his back.
That was the game’s final goal, as Barcelona clinched a crucial and impressive 4-1 win to reclaim the fourth spot on the La Liga table, leapfrogging Atletico Madrid, who had beaten Osasuna on Saturday. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Xavi Hernandez’s men.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 6/10
Marc-Andre ter Stegen started the game woefully, flapping at a cross from Jose Gaya before the goal was ruled out as offside. The German international mostly had only regulation saves to make after that and could not have done much to deny Carlos Soler. But he does not give a sense of security inside the Barcelona box anymore.
Sergino Dest: 7/10
Dest had a major challenge on his hands ahead of the game, with Bryan Gil looking in good touch since joining Valencia. But the USMNT international contained the Spaniard well for the most part, with his performance reminding Xavi that the youngster has a lot to offer.
Ronald Araujo: 8/10
Xavi: "I personally asked Araujo to play, that we needed him… We asked Eric to put up with the discomforts at half-time, Frenkie also had some discomforts… I'm delighted with the players." pic.twitter.com/I9PbJmOJHe
— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) February 20, 2022
Xavi would have heaved a sigh of relief when Araujo was passed fit to start. And the Uruguayan was a solid customer at the heart of the Barcelona defence. Araujo completed numerous clearances while making two big blocks, which helped keep Valencia at bay in their periods of dominance.
Eric Garcia: 6/10
Eric Garcia has come under much scrutiny this season, but Sunday’s performance was a step in the right direction for the Spanish international. The 21-year-old was largely solid in the first half before being substituted at the break, perhaps with the UEFA Europa League match against Napoli in mind.
Jordi Alba: 8/10
Alba rolled back the years beautifully on Sunday, particularly in the first half, when he was a constant outlet down the left flank. His pass leading up to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s first goal was exquisite, spotting the Gabonese striker brilliantly. But his influence waned as the game progressed, with the Spaniard losing possession a staggering 18 times.
Gavi produced a typically energetic performance, popping up here, there and everywhere whenever Barcelona needed him to influence the proceedings. The Spanish international misplaced only two passes all game and even grabbed the assist for Aubameyang’s second goal. He continues to go from strength to strength for Barcelona.
Sergio Busquets: 8/10
Busquets: "We were very effective, especially in the first half, and that gave us dominance and peace. It was a good match." pic.twitter.com/6EaODE7jYz
— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) February 20, 2022
Busquets was instrumental in asserting Barcelona’s control on the game in the first half, pulling the strings effortlessly. The Barcelona captain opened up play brilliantly in the build-up to Frenkie de Jong’s goal, spotting Ousmane Dembele inside the Valencia box. But he should have done better to stop the move that led to Carlos Soler’s goal.
Frenkie de Jong: 8/10
It was a strange outing for Frenkie de Jong, who did not see as much of the ball as he would have liked. But the Dutchman finished off a slick move to score a confidence-boosting goal before being given a breather early in the second half ahead of the crucial UEFA Europa League clash against Napoli.
Ousmane Dembele: 7/10
After receiving support from Xavi in the wake of being booed by Barcelona fans, Dembele earned his first start since the end of the January transfer window. And the Frenchman was a bundle of energy in the first half, linking up superbly with the Barcelona midfielders and setting Frenkie de Jong up for his goal. But his influence waned considerably after the interval before being taken off for Nico Gonzalez.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 9/10
Aubameyang kept his spot in the starting lineup and justified Xavi’s faith in him by scoring two well-taken goals. The finish for the first strike was particularly delightful, as he latched on to Jordi Alba’s floated pass before completing a brace by finishing Gavi’s pass. There were some sloppy touches in the second half, but he had done his job in the opening period.
He was also awarded the fourth goal as Pedri’s strike deflected off of him, meaning he ended the game with a hat-trick.
4 – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ?? is one of only four players to have scored in LaLiga (1), Premier League (68), Bundesliga (98) and Ligue 1 (41) in the 21st century, after Stevan Jovetić ??, who also scored in Serie A, Michy Batshuayi ?? and James Rodriguez ??. Premiere. pic.twitter.com/VQ5qrFcbbp
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 20, 2022
Ferran Torres: 6.5/10
Coming into the match on the back of a frustrating outing against Napoli, Torres was determined to make a meaningful impact on the game. While the Spaniard contributed to the team’s cause in the opening period, his influence reduced considerably after the break and was rightly taken off in the game’s final quarter.
Oscar Mingueza: 6/10
On for Eric Garcia, Mingueza made several clearances to alleviate the danger during spells when Valencia heaped pressure on Barcelona. But the Spaniard suffered some nervy moments, although his output on the ball helped build up play smartly from the back.
Pedri replaced Frenkie de Jong and continued from where the Dutchman left off. While he did not create too many chances, the Spaniard left his mark with a brilliant long-range strike that sealed the contest, although the goal was given to Aubameyang. Xavi Hernandez continues to manage his minutes well.
Nico Gonzalez: 6/10
On for Dembele, Gonzalez helped see the game out in the final 20 minutes without much of a fuss.
Adama Traore: N/A
Adama Traore did not get many opportunities to showcase his blistering pace but did squander a good counter-attacking opportunity.
Luuk de Jong: N/A
A late introduction, Luuk de Jong barely touched the ball in the game’s dying embers.