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.
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.
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
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