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This was never going to be an ordinary game. The Mallorca game at the weekend had already given the players their first experience of playing in an empty stadium, but doing so at the Camp Nou was always going to be even weirder.
The hordes of blaugrana supporters are very much a part of what Barça home games are about. It was always going to harder than usual for the team to raise their game. That might explain the lack of zest for some sections of this encounter, but as the minutes progressed, so did the football, and by the end of it two goals had secured three more crucial points on the quest for Liga glory.
While Barcelona dominated but struggled to create occasions, Leganés came firing into the game and squandered the best of the chances to take an early lead. Clement Lenglet twice blocked two shots in rapid succession that looked like goals for the visitors, and seconds later Miguel Ángel Guerrero sent the ball skimming wide off the post.
By the time of the first drink break, Barça had yet to seriously trouble their bottom-of-table guests.
Ansu has the answer
But Leganés’ early spark soon faded. As Barça patiently pressed deeper and deeper it seemed inevitable that something would eventually come of it. And it did. Ansu Fati, in the starting line-up tonight, collected the ball from Junior Firpo on the edge of the area and swerved a fine finish around Iván Cuéllar. Ansu became the second youngest ever scorer of five goals in La Liga, and Firpo recorded hus first ever assist for the club.
It was also the first goal the Camp Nou had seen for a hundred and one days. There was nobody there to see it in person. But millions staring into screens around the world rejoiced.
Despite the lead, Barça still couldn’t get their full grip on the match and when Antoine Griezmann found the net on 63 minutes it was just the third shot on target. And that goal wouldn’t stand because VAR had spotted Nelson Semedo a fraction offside prior to delivering his delightful cross to the French striker.
Messi from the spot
But Barça were clearly coming to life. Leo Messi went on a charging run, dancing around a series of attempts to bring him down by fair means or foul, and when Rubén Pérez finally did, it was inside the area and quite clearly a penalty.
The Argentinian stepped up to take it. He was confident. He never looked like missing. And that was 2-0.
Things got scrappy from there on. The fouls and cards were flowing as Leganés did everything they could to prevent any further damage. The visitors even had the odd chance to pull one back, with Barça content not to showboat and instead handle the minutes professionally.
There’s a lot of football still to be played this month. Just two days’ break and they are off to Seville to do it all again.
With six goals scored, none conceded, and a sense that the best has yet to come, Barça are looking very solid indeed as La Liga moves closer and closer to the climax. .
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