Robert Lewandowski’s 93rd-minute winner saved Barcelona’s blushes on Saturday, as they edged Valencia 1-0 at the Mestalla to top La Liga.

Barcelona returned to winning ways on Saturday evening, beating Valencia 1-0 courtesy of a 93rd-minute goal from Robert Lewandowski as the visitors left it very, very late.

The game seemed destined to finish as a goalless draw in another frustrating night for Xavi Hernandez’s men to end a harrowing month that saw them crash out of the UEFA Champions League and get battered in El Clasico to Real Madrid. But Robert Lewandowski had other ideas as he popped up with a clutch goal to earn three points.

Barcelona made a strong start at the Mestalla, pressing high up the pitch and forcing poor passes and errors from the Valencia backline. But clear-cut chances were few and far between in the first quarter of the game. Ansu Fati then wasted a big chance after a brilliant pass from Pedri midway through the first half. Lewandowski then came close to breaking the deadlock as he saw a header come off the post from Jordi Alba’s cross.

Valencia started the second half brightly, and Samuel Lino thought he had handed his side the lead against Barcelona. But Marcos Andre clearly handled the ball with his hand in the build-up and VAR rightfully called it off. Substitute Ferran Torres then had a golden chance to score the winner against his former club. But the Spaniard failed to nestle the net from close range. However, Lewandowski’s goal minutes later meant that Xavi’s team took all three points.

Lewandowski was the hero on the night. And while it was a dominant display, it was far from a convincing performance, lacking clinical edge and confidence in front of the goal. Anyways, the result sees Barcelona provisionally leapfrog Real Madrid into the top spot in La Liga thanks to a superior goal difference, with both sides on 31 points. The Hard Tackle will now run the rule over Xavi’s troops in what could prove to be a crucial win in the title race.

Marc Andre Ter Stegen: 7/10

The German shot-stopper did not have anything to do in the first half, being called into just one save. Ter Stegen made a critical save from Lino’s strike in the 71st minute to keep the scoreline 0-0. Overall, he had a decent enough game, chipping in with 14 accurate long balls and also making one key pass.

Alejandro Balde: 7/10

Defensively, Balde was a bit hesitant about whether to stick or follow potent Jose Gaya on the right flank, but he more than held his own. When pushing forward, he looked lively, executing three dribbles and completing two accurate long balls. All in all, Balde delivered a strong showing.

Jules Kounde: 7.5/10

Kounde was Barcelona’s best player in the first half. And while his team dominated the game, the Frenchman proved strong and composed whenever called into action. He appeared to always be in the right spot at the right time to snuff out any danger before limping off in the 73rd minute with what looked like a hamstring issue.

Eric Garcia: 6/10

Eric Garcia has faced a lot of scrutiny from his own fanbase this season. And his unconvincing performance on Saturday did not help matters. He had to be hooked off late in the first half due to injury.

Jordi Alba: 6.5/10

Alba was fairly steady defensively and looked to be back to his vintage best going forward. He made some brave runs and combined well with Ansu Fati and Pedri to create some brilliant sequences of play. The veteran won three of his four contested duels and made two tackles, one interception, two key passes, and five precise long balls.

Pedri: 8/10

Pedri was simply sensational on the night. He was tidy, progressive on the ball, made several line-breaking passes, and found open pockets. He also played two key passes, including the one for the big Ferran Torres chance, and four long balls. The teenage prodigy also won nine of his 14 contested duels and completed two dribbles.

Pedri did not shrug away from his defensive responsibilities either, making three tackles while winning the ball back countless number of times.

Sergio Busquets: 6/10

Busquets has looked off the pace in recent weeks and delivered some sub-par performances under the lights. He kept things tidy at the Mestalla and passed the ball around well. But that was about it as he was taken off before the hour mark.

Frenkie de Jong: 7/10

The Dutch international looked sharp in the middle of the park and did not hesitate in making darting runs forward. He put forth a well-rounded midfield display, reminding Xavi of his world-class talents. His subtle movements, feints, and passes set the tone for Barcelona’s build-up without looking too dazzling.

Ousmane Dembele: 4/10

You would be forgiven for thinking Dembele did not feature for Barcelona against Valencia at all on Saturday; such was his anonymity. The Frenchman had a terrible first half, failing to register a single shot in the first half. He completed only one dribble. Fatigue could be a factor, but he needs to produce more.

Robert Lewandowski: 8/10

The prolific Pole, the player to watch in our preview, was incredibly unlucky not to put Barcelona ahead late in the first half when he struck the post with a well-timed header that would have settled the nerves a bit.

Lewandowski was a key piece in the visitors’ build-up play and frequently dropped deep to link the midfield and attacking lines. Valencia marshalled him very well in the second period and never really gave him a sniff to score. However, as most great players do, he came up with the clutch goal in the dying embers of the game.

For all of his critics for not turning up against Bayern Munich, he now has 13 goals in La Liga. And had it not been for his sheer goalscoring brilliance, the Blaugrana would have dropped many points in the league this season.

Ansu Fati: 6.5/10

Fati was one of the only few players who were posing a goal threat. The La Masia academy product had a perfectly executed finish disallowed in the first half, but he continued to push for a goal even with a tiny opening. However, a big chunk of his four shots did not even test the Valencia keeper.


Marcos Alonso: 5.5/10

Alonso replaced the injured Garcia and struggled at the back. Lucky to be only shown a yellow card as he made a terrible challenge on Hugo Guillamon just minutes after his introduction off the bench.

Ferran Torres: 6/10

Prior to Lewandowski’s goal, Torres had the golden chance to win the game for the visitors when Pedri picked him out inside the six-yard box for the easiest of tap-ins. But the Spaniard somehow miscued his effort and completely missed the ball.

Gavi: 6/10

Gavi injected some much-needed energy and dynamism into the game from the middle of the park, and was vital in transition play. But he was unable to create anything major of note.

Raphinha: 7/10

The Brazilian was once again unusually quiet for the majority of his time on the pitch, posing no clear threat and surrendering the ball cheaply on occasions. He did, however, set up Lewandowski’s eventual winner with a magnificent cross.

Gerard Pique: N/A

Did not play enough to warrant a rating.

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