Dembele delights but frustrates in pivotal Barcelona win


MADRID — Ousmane Dembele scored the match-winner as Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid 1-0 on the Estadio Metropolitano on Sunday to maneuver three factors clear on the high of LaLiga.

Dembele fired previous Jan Oblak in the twenty second minute after good work from Pedri and Gavi to cap Barca’s vigorous begin with a objective. Atletico wakened after falling behind and Jose Maria Gimenez got here shut with a header earlier than Antoine Griezmann pressured a effective save from goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Griezmann missed one other probability after the break and Dembele wasted two openings to seal the sport for Barca.

Both sides have been decreased to 10 males in the 92nd minute when Ferran Torres and Stefan Savic have been dismissed after coming collectively, whereas Barca nonetheless wanted a stoppage-time goal-line clearance from Ronald Araujo to carry on for 3 useful factors on the highway.

JUMP TO: Player ratings | Best/worst performers | Highlights & notable moments | Post-game quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures

Rapid response

1. Barcelona make the most of Real Madrid’s slip up in LaLiga

Barcelona returned from the World Cup break in sloppy kind. They have been held at dwelling by Espanyol in LaLiga and wanted further time to beat third-division aspect Intercity in the Copa del Rey in midweek. However, Real Madrid’s defeat at Villarreal on Saturday had lifted the temper round Barca and offered the prospect to maneuver three factors clear on the high of LaLiga.

Barcelona took that probability, though it was not straightforward at instances. They began nicely on Sunday and supervisor Xavi Hernandez’s choice to choose 4 midfielders as a substitute of three to compensate for the lack of suspended striker Robert Lewandowski labored nicely early on. Pedri and Gavi linked to create probabilities for the forwards, with Ansu Fati lacking two earlier than Dembele lastly broke the impasse. Pedri then missed a superb opening to double Barca’s lead after an Atletico objective.

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The sport took a flip from there, although, with Atletico in management and Barca beneath stress. Despite a midfield-heavy line-up, Barca misplaced management of the center of the pitch and it was solely the defenders who saved them forward. Andreas Christensen and Araujo have been significantly good in the again, with Araujo’s late, late clearance off the road to disclaim Griezmann sealing the factors.

Xavi mentioned a win wouldn’t be decisive in the title race at this stage of the season, but the best way the Barca gamers celebrated, collapsing on the rain-sodden pitch earlier than going to their followers in the nook of the stadium, confirmed simply how essential this win was.

2. The Dembele Experience returns as he thrills and frustrates

You by no means know what you are going to get from Dembele. It is what makes him so onerous to defend in opposition to — and so irritating to look at at instances. Against Atletico, Barca followers have been handled to the total Dembele Experience.

The French winger opened the scoring together with his seventh objective of the season in all competitions — 5 of which have come in the league — with a effective right-footed end throughout Oblak. He joins Atletico’s Griezmann as the one participant in LaLiga with 5 or extra objectives and 5 or extra assists this season. His tempo then proved Barca’s greatest — and just about solely — outlet in the second half as Atletico pushed for an equaliser.

But after twice doing the onerous work, he dallied when it got here to taking pictures and the probabilities disappeared. He remains to be missing that further little bit of high quality and consistency that Xavi says will make him among the finest gamers in the world. The potential is there, but Sunday was a reminder of what is left to enhance in his sport to get there.

3. Atletico Madrid’s combat is to complete in the highest 4

Atletico will really feel they have been price at the least a degree right here. Gimenez’s header shaved the publish, Griezmann was denied by Ter Stegen and Nahuel Molina dragged extensive when he maybe ought to have squared earlier than Araujo’s late heroics. They ended the sport with 20 pictures to Barca’s 10 — 5 on the right track to Barca’s two — and that’s the most pictures for Atletico in a LaLiga loss in the final two seasons.

A win on a weekend when cross-city rivals Real Madrid additionally misplaced may have revived their flagging title hopes by shifting them inside eight factors of high spot. Instead, defeat leaves them 14 behind Barca and nonetheless trailing Madrid by 11.

The title-winning Atletico sides led by Diego Simeone in the previous could have seized that chance in opposition to an under-par Barcelona group. But, whereas they are going to lament missed probabilities and dangerous luck, the loss solely served to indicate that Atletico’s combat this season is to complete in the highest 4 and return to the Champions League subsequent season.

Player scores

Atletico: Oblak 6; Molina 7, Savic 6, Gimenez 6, Reinildo 6; Llorente 6, Koke 6, Barrios 6, Carrasco 7; Griezmann 6, Felix 6

Subs: Kondogbia 6, Morata 6, Correa 6, Lemar 6

Barcelona: Ter Stegen 8; Kounde 6, Araujo 9, Christensen 8, Balde 6: Busquets 5, De Jong 5, Gavi 6, Pedri 6; Dembele 7, Ansu 5

Subs: Torres 6, Kessie 6, Raphinha 6, Roberto 6, Alonso 6

Best and worst performers

BEST: Ronald Araujo, Barcelona

For that late clearance alone, Araujo deserves it, though Christensen was additionally good.

WORST: Ansu Fati, Barcelona

Handed the unenviable process of changing Lewandowski and got here up brief. The ball did not stick when it reached him and he nonetheless appears wanting match sharpness after his damage issues.

Highlights and notable moments

The solely objective of the match was scored by Ousmane Dembele, and it got here from a beautiful little bit of teamwork by Barcelona.

Pedri dribbled by means of visitors towards the field, poked the ball towards Gavi, who swept it apart for Dembele, and the French winger tucked his shot contained in the far publish.

After the match: What the gamers and managers mentioned

Barcelona supervisor Xavi Hernandez on enjoying with 4 midfielders: “I liked the first half an hour. The game was under control. The goal came from creating a numerical advantage through the middle. These are three golden points. We knew how to suffer. It’s important to have kept a clean sheet. Without playing that well, we got the three points. It was a tough game but a big win. It’s not just three points, it’s a huge morale boost. I am proud of the team. We have made a statement that we are candidates to win the league.”

Xavi on not having Lewandowski: “It’s important to win without Lewandowski, but he’s a key part of the team. We missed him in terms of pressing high. Ferran did well when he came on, but we missed him.”

Atletico Madrid supervisor Diego Simeone on the loss: “We have lost three big points. The team played well after the opening 20 minutes. What stays with me is the 70 minutes after in which we played really well, individually and collectively. But the win didn’t come with that performance, which is the important thing. The reality is that we lost the game. It’s true the team did enough to get a better result, but it didn’t happen. We did more good things than bad but games are won in the boxes. If we follow the line of the final 70 minutes, the team is going to compete as we want.”

Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets on shifting up on the LaLiga desk: “We knew Madrid had slipped up at Villarreal and it was an opportunity we had to take — and we did. We know how tough it is to come here, but we got ourselves in front and Pedri had the chance to score a second. They pressed after and didn’t let us out. We had more control in the second half and even though we had to summer, we picked up three really important points.”

Key stats (supplied by ESPN Stats & Information)

  • Ousmane Dembélé scored in consecutive membership matches for the primary time since March-April 2021, and he joins Antoine Griezmann as one of many two solely gamers in LaLiga with 5+ objectives and 5+ assists this season.

  • Gavi recorded his second help this LaLiga season, and Barcelona are the one group in Europe’s high 5 leagues this season with a number of gamers age 18 or youthful with a number of assists (Alejandro Balde & Gavi).

  • Barcelona have conceded the least quantity of objectives in Europe’s high 5 leagues this season (six), forward of Juventus (seven).

Up subsequent

Atletico Madrid: Los Colchoneros head to Almería in LaLiga subsequent week on Sunday, Jan. 15 (watch reside on ESPN+ at 10:15 a.m. ET).

Barcelona: The Blaugrana subsequent have a date in the Spanish Supercopa, visiting Real Betis on Thursday, Jan. 12 (stream reside on ESPN at 2 p.m. ET). Then, Barca head to Ceuta for the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, Jan. 18 with the kickoff time not but set. Barca lastly return to LaLiga motion on Sunday, Jan. 22 after they host Getafe.


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