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FC Barcelona have collected three points from a high tension encounter in Elche. The home side put up a strong fight and led at half-time, meaning Xavi Hernández’s side needed to pull out all the stops to battle back from behind and ultimately seal a win that means they move up to third in the table, pending the outcome of the game between Betis and Atlético Madrid later in the day.
Xavi had warned before the game that this was not going to a walk in the park. Elche have improved a lot under Francisco, especially at home, where they were unbeaten under their new coach and were intent on keeping that record alive.
Barça were still creating most of the opportunities and a very plugged in Ousmane Dembélé was involved in the creation of most of those.
Frenkie de Jong had the best two chances to get Barça into the lead. In the first he looked certain score when a rebound fell perfectly into his path, but the ball was cleared off the line and in a one-on-one against Edgar Badia it was the Elche keeper who had the upper hand.
But the Catalans looked lot less comfortable than they have done in other recent games. Elche were very much in the mix and while Tete Morente probably should have done better with one chance, Fidel Chaves took his own to put the home side ahead moments before half-time.
Pedri had misjudged his pass back into defence and instead put Fidel through on goal and after five consecutive clean sheets at the Estadio Martínez Valero, Barça found themselves trailing at the break.
Ferran Torres has had so many chances to score his first goal for Barça. And the substitute had just volleyed another one over the bar before he finally got his side back level on the one-hour mark. The cross was from Dembélé, the setup was from Jordi Alba and the former Man City man stroked the ball over the line.
We had a cracker of a game on our hands here. After Elche responded strongly to Barça’s goal, with Pere Milla forcing a brilliant save from Ter Stegen, the blaugrana gradually gained greater and greater control of the proceedings. Two great chances for Torres to grab a second. Two astonishing saves from Badia.
In the end winner came from the spot. Elche defender Antonio Barragán was unfortunate to catch the ball on his shoulder but a penalty it was and Memphis Depay blasted it into the roof of the net.
Elche refused to surrender. Buoyed on by a capacity crowd, the final minutes were a desperate onslaught on the Barça goal, with penalty claims of their own turned down, but Barça managed to hang on to celebrate three points that may not have been won in such emphatic style as some others of late, but are three points all the same to further consolidate their position in the Champions League places.
It’s looking good and next up it’s Galatasaray on Thursday in the Europa League.
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