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It was a long and frustrating wait for FC Barcelona in Vitoria on Sunday night, but they got there in the end.
The Basques and Catalans were tightly deadlocked for 87 minutes, but just when it looked like this simply wasn’t going to be Barça’s day, Frenkie de Jong finally had the ball in the back of net and Barça took it 1-0.
The result moves Barça up to fifth in the Liga table, just one point behind fourth placed Atlético Madrid.
Uneventful first half
Things had taken their time to get going at a bitingly cold Mendizorrotza. Barça had the possession and the control of the game, but finding a way through the tightly organised Alavés defence was proving extremely difficult indeed.
A Luuk de Jong volley and a couple of headers from Gerard Piqué and Sergio Busquets were about as good as it got in the first half but that was still a lot more than the home side managed.
Pere Pons probably should have done better when he was through on goal moments before half-time, but other than that the Basques were causing very little in the way of bother.
It was much better from Barça after the restart. They were finally starting to find a way through on the Alavés goal and Luuk de Jong failed to convert two particularly strong chances to break the deadlock, one of which was called offside anyway.
But the 0-0 scoreline just would not budge and Alavés were frustratingly adept at neutralising everything Barça tried to throw at them.
The home side had the occasional bite of their own. Two of the last three meetings between these sides had ended in draws and as the game progressed, it seemed they were starting to believe they might be able to go one better this time.
In Joselu they have the sixth highest goalscorer in La Liga and he was giving the Barça defence some worrying moments.
Frenkie to the rescue
But with just three minutes to go and a 0-0 draw looking ominous, Barça finally did it!
Jordi Alba flipped the ball through, Ferran Torres knocked it back for Frenkie de Jong, and the Dutchman converted.
A moment of doubt as the VAR people checked for offside, but the goal was good to go and Barça had three absolutely crucial points to celebrate.
It had by no means been a brilliant performance from FC Barcelona, but as Xavi said the day before, the most important thing right now is to win games. And that’s what happened. Onwards and upwards… Força Barça!
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