Ansu Fati is a star in the making and other talking points as Barcelona thump Valencia

Andy West 07:45 15/09/2019
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Fati makes the most of his Barcelona start.

Barcelona’s thumping 5-2 win over Valencia on Saturday night provided plenty of talking points, starting with the emergence of a new superstar. So let’s look back on a dramatic night at the Camp Nou.

A star is born

After scoring from the bench in his team’s previous game against Osasuna, 16 year-old winger Ansu Fati was elevated into the starting line-up for the first time..and to say he took the opportunity with both hands would be an enormous understatement.

The teen star needed less than two minutes to record his first goal at the Camp Nou, running onto a square pass from Frenkie de Jong and applying a confidently struck rising shot from just inside the box. And five minutes later he created the second, dancing down the left to the byline before picking out De Jong for a simple finish.

He then came very close to a second goal with a curling strike after 15 minutes, was narrowly off target with a fierce strike from 20 yards just past the half-hour mark, and thrilled the crowd with a glorious flick over his own head…all before half-time.

Fati wasn’t entirely perfect – he squandered possession with loose touches on a few occasions and didn’t always make the best decisions on the ball, and was replaced after an hour. But those negatives can be overlooked for the overwhelmingly positive aspects of his attacking impact, which gave the distinct impression of being the start of something very special indeed.

Ansu Fati

Ansu Fati

Suarez back, De Jong settling

With Lionel Messi still sidelined by a calf injury, Luis Suarez instead stepped up to send a reminder that the old guard are not ready to be usurped by the prodigious Fati just yet.

After starting the game on the bench upon his return from injury, Suarez was brought on after an hour and – rather like Fati himself – wasted no time in proving his point…he scored just a minute after his introduction, firing home a brilliant low shot off the left-hand post from a standing start. Looking lean and hungry, Suarez followed that up with another fine strike for his team’s final goal, and it’s clear he is determined to remain the team’s chief centre forward despite the arrival of Antoine Griezmann.

Another big plus by provided by De Jong, who delivered by far his best performance in Barca colours to date. The Dutchman assisted Fati’s opener and then powered home the youngster’s cross for the second, and continued to excel in the centre of midfield by combining poise, drive and precise use of the ball. Adding mobility and dynamism to a rather one-paced midfield is a major priority for Barca this season, and De Jong can also add quality on the ball. On this evidence, he will be a major asset.

A fine night for Suarez.

A fine night for Suarez.

Debut defeat for Celades

Albert Celades was taking charge of Valencia for the first time following his shock midweek appointment to replace the fired Marcelino, and the rookie coach followed the tried and trusted methods of his predecessor by naming a predictable starting eleven and following the team’s familiar ‘sit deep and strike on the counter’ tactics.

After Barca’s lightening start, Valencia initially responded well and Kevin Gameiro provided hope by pulling one goal back before the break. But Los Che completely fell apart after the break, looking a completely demoralised bunch after quickfire goals from Pique and Suarez sent the game out of reach with half an hour still remaining.

Long before the end it appeared clear the tumultuous events of the past week have taken their toll, and club owner Peter Lim should be hoping that his shock decision to dispense with a popular and successful manager will not throw his team’s season into too much turmoil. On this evidence, he has plenty of reason to be very worried – especially with a daunting Champions League opener against Chelsea coming up this week

A horror debut for Celades.

A horror debut for Celades.

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Barcelona 5-2 Valencia: Player ratings as Ansu Fati shines with a 9

Andy West 04:03 15/09/2019
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Ansu Fati was the undoubted star of the show as Barcelona destroyed Valencia 5-2 at Camp Nou, with the 16 year-old marking his full debut by recording a goal and an assist inside the first seven minutes.

But the teenager wasn’t the only player to shine in his team’s thumping win…so how did everyone else perform? Find out with our full player ratings:

Ter Stegen 6. Made a risky but effective save at the feet of Gameiro and did what he had to do – which was limited – with efficiency.

Semedo 7. Did a decent job of containing the threat posed by Guedes and came forward to arrow a low strike against the upright.

Pique 6. Didn’t look very comfortable against the pace of Gameiro, but got forward to tap home a rebound for his team’s key third goal.

Lenglet 6. Left for dead by Gameiro for Valencia’s first and the late goal was Gomez was another sign that Barca are vulnerable at the back.

Alba 7. Struck up a good understanding with Fati down the left, working as hard as usual up and down the pitch.

De Jong 8. Assisted the opener with an astute pass into the box, and netted the second with a rising drive. By far his best Barca performance to date.

A commanding display from the former Ajax man.

A commanding display from the former Ajax man.

Busquets 7. Played a central part in Barca’s domination of possession, serving as his team’s fulcrum to keep the ball moving and hold the shape.

Arthur 7. In the starting line-up for the first time this season, and delivered a controlled display to orchestrate the midfield. Back to his best.

Perez 6. Played with energy and intent down the right wing, but offered little penetration and was the least dangerous of his team’s attackers.

Griezmann 6. Fairly quiet on the whole, but contributed with a shot which led to Pique’s goal. Moved to the left wing after Suarez’s return to action.

Fati 9. Sensational. Scored after less than two minutes of his debut with a crisp low strike and registered a stunning assist five minutes later.

Suarez 8. Returned to action after injury in style, curling home a brilliant 20-yard strike within a minute and adding another soon after.

SUBSTITUTES

Rakitic 6. Received a rousing welcome when he was introduced with 20 minutes to play and kept his team moving with an assured cameo.

Vidal 6. Introduced to tighten up the midfield for the final stages and showed plenty of willingness to get forward with dynamic movement.

VALENCIA

Cillessen 4. Barca’s former back-up keeper made an unhappy return, committing an awful mistake to give Pique a tap-in for the third goal.

Wass 5. Caught out of position for the second goal and was given a torrid time by Fati. Playing out of position and it showed.

Garay 4. Perhaps should have dispossessed Fati before Barca’s second and was one of the weakest performers in a worrying team display.

Gabriel 5. Far from his finest hour, often slow to react and cut out danger. But did make a good block to deny Rakitic.

Gaya 5. Rarely able to get forward in an unusually subdued performance which saw him concentrate on defensive duties against Perez.

Torres 6. Showed tenacity and fight on Valencia’s right flank, but flitted in and out of the action and was replaced.

Coquelin 5. Struggled in the centre of midfield, failing to break up Barca’s passing patterns and receiving little of the ball himself.

A tough night for Coquelin.

A tough night for Coquelin.

Parejo 5. Sparked many of his team’s dangerous attacks but was generally outplayed by Busquets and Arthur and offered little resistance in the second half.

Guedes 4. Another disappointing display from a player who possesses undoubted talent but also a frustrating tendency to hide it.

Rodrigo 6. Linked play well at times dropping deep, including a slick assist for Gameiro’s goal, but faded and was taken off.

Gameiro 6. Finished well to pull one back and always offered a threat with his pace running in behind the home team defence.

SUBSTITUTES

Cheryshev 6. Replaced Guedes down the left flank and made a late contribution with a good cross for Gomez’s goal.

Kang-in 5. Hot young prospect was given a chance to impress but was booked within a minute. Showed some nice touches.

Gomez 6. Came on for Rodrigo and capped a determined brief showing with a close-range finish for his team’s late second.

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Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema reveals change in style of play during BBC era

Sport360 staff 12:54 07/09/2019
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Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema believes he was the man to make everything work in Los Blancos’ fabled ‘BBC’ trio.

Benzema was often overshadowed by Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, but has been a proven goalscorer in his own right during his productive 10-year career at the Bernabeu.

The Frenchman saw his value questioned at times, but Ronaldo and Bale always worked hard for the collective cause, and Benzema considers himself to have been the glue which held three ambitious figures together.

“You had the rocket, which was Bale, the goalscorer, which was Cristiano, and then you had me who would be between them, the one that made it all work,” Benzema told RMC Sport.

“At Lyon I was the finisher, and the finisher here was Ronaldo. I played another role with him.

“I scored goals, but I was more involved in the build-up, in movement, trying to open up spaces.

“For me, just because you’re the No.9 doesn’t mean you have to be a goalscorer.

“It’s a different style of play.

“In the years before, the No.9 was usually the goalscorer at Real Madrid, but here it was a winger who came inside, and I moved about to free up some space and allow him to score.

“For me he was the goalscorer, even if he was playing on the left.”

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