Frenkie de Jong’s goal-line finish and Riqui Puig’s late header was enough for Barça to earn an important win and keep the pressure on La Liga’s top two
A reasonably quiet opening 10 minutes saw nothing in the way of goalmouth incident from either side, Antoine Griezmann’s header on 11 from Ousmane Dembélé’s free-kick the closest anyone came to opening the scoring.
Barça were keen to make all the running in the game, with the hosts having to be content with the occasional foray upfield. On 19, Ronald Araujo was equal to Raúl Guti’s leap in the Barça area as Elche managed to spring the offside trap.
As the half began to take shape, Elche resorted to a more physical game, putting 10 men behind the ball and making life difficult for the visitors, who were spraying the ball about with confidence. A great move involving Dembélé and Pedri saw Sergio Busquets get another shot on target on 33 as Barça turned up the pressure.
It wasn’t long before that pressure eventually told. With 38 minutes gone, another break down Elche’s right side saw Martin Braithwaite play a sumptuous cross for Griezmann, only for the defender to get there first and divert the ball towards his own net. On the line, Frenkie de Jong finished in emphatic style.
A mistake at the back almost let in Elche 10 minutes after the break, Barça indebted to Marc-André ter Stegen for pulling off his first important save of the game to ensure the advantage remained.
The pattern of the first half soon returned, however, as Elche sat as many players behind the ball as they could, inviting the blaugranes to break them down.
De Jong was particularly busy in the central areas, constantly probing and looking for the space and channels in order to open up the pitch and bring in team-mates from the wider areas.
A fine piece of play from substitute, Trincão, saw the youngster get a shot on target with the keeper at full stretch to keep it out as the game entered the latter stages. With four minutes left, the Portuguese went closer still, his powerful downward header bringing the best out of Édgar Badia.
Within two minutes of coming on, fellow sub, Riqui Puig, made the game safe with a back-post header from Frenkie de Jong’s pinpoint cross.