Alaves 1-3 Barcelona: Player ratings as ten-man Barca hold on for deserved win

Barcelona moved up to third place in La Liga with a hard-fought 3-1 win at Deportivo Alaves on Saturday evening.

La Blaugrana have been rocked by news that Xavi will leave at the end of the season but the first-team managed to put off-field turmoil to one side to secure three valuable points in the Basque country.

Barca held on to claim victory despite the questionable sending off of January signing Vitor Roque, who received two booking in quick succession and was sent for an early shower.

How the game unfolded

Barcelona nearly conceded a penalty after only 15 seconds when youngster Pau Cubarsi hauled down Alex Sola, but the flag was raised for offside and the defender was let off the hook.

Immediately after goalkeeper Inaki Pena cleared the ball up the pitch from a free kick, Barca were defending for their lives again, with Sola this time seeing a teasing cross turned behind for a corner.

The visitors’ first chance came when Frenkie de Jong sent in a cross following a corner, picking out the run of captain Ronald Araujo. However, the Uruguayan’s header was thwarted by a heroic block from Rafa Marin.

After a frustrating first half to the opening 45, Barcelona went ahead through Robert Lewandowski. Pedri and De Jong combined well in the left channel before play shifted to Ilkay Gundogan, and he slipped Lewandowski in beyond the last line to dink home his first La Liga goal since December 10.

Pena came to Barcelona’s rescue when he clawed away a free header from Jon Guiridi, who had somehow evaded the marking of Jules Kounde.

With one final chance of the first half, a deep cross from Ruben Duarte was helped along by Ander Guevara and Pena had to be alert to clear the danger.

Just after the break, Barcelona doubled their lead. A floated cross from Pedri found Gundogan, who volleyed past Antonio Sivera to add Barca’s second.

But almost straight from kick-off, Alaves pulled one back. Sola, so often the scourge of Barca on the night, crossed for Samu Omorodion – who had given Xavi’s men trouble all evening – and his looping header wrong-footed Pena.

With almost his first touch after coming on as a substitute, Vitor Roque scored to restore Barcelona’s two-goal cushion. Lamine Yamal managed to turn away from his marker and sprint in down the right, leading the charge before the ball worked back to the left wing for Hector Fort to cross for the Brazilian forward, and he made no mistake from close range.

But Roque wouldn’t be smiling for too much longer as he picked up two yellow cards within the next ten minutes and received his marching orders. His second booking came after clipping the foot of Marin and seemed incredibly harsh, but as this was not a straight red card, VAR could not overturn the decision.

Alaves could only muster a couple of half-chances in stoppage time however and Barcelona held on for the win.

Vitor RoqueVitor Roque

Roque’s appearance was short-lived / Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/GettyImages

GK: Inaki Pena – 7/10 – Came up with a few important saves and punches when Barcelona were under the cosh. Too good to only play as an understudy in his career.

RB: Jules Kounde – 6/10 – Solid on the ball but put himself in some questionable positions off it with the game at 11-v-11. Bucked his ideas up when Barcelona had to sit in.

CB: Ronald Araujo – 6/10 – Served as a suitable senior to the adolescent Cubarsi. Denied a goal of his own by a flying block early on.

CB: Pau Cubarsi – 6/10 – Like a deer in the headlights in the opening 60 seconds but recovered well from that point, particularly considering he is only 17.

LB: Joao Cancelo – 5/10 – Excellent going forward but Alaves sought to attack down his side and he was sacrificed at the break in search of defensive solidity.

CM: Andreas Christensen – 6/10 – As Xavi would have hoped, the centre-back had the requisite skillset to play a little higher up the pitch and his positioning did not prove disruptive in either direction.

CM: Frenkie de Jong – 7/10 – Surprisingly asked to retrieve the ball from the back on occasion despite Christensen’s proficiency in midfield. Silky smooth wherever he had the ball.

CM: Ilkay Gundogan – 9/10 – Absolutely sensational in his hour on the pitch before succumbing to injury. Ran Barcelona’s attack having been freed from defensive duties.

RW: Lamine Yamal – 8/10 – Scampered up the touchline with his usual youthful exuberance. A delight to watch.

CF: Robert Lewandowski – 8/10 – Wasn’t too involved in the second half but his movement caused Alaves problems in the first, culminating in a well-taken opening goal.

LW: Pedri – 8/10 – Bounced across the pitch with magisterial brilliance, providing an assist for Gundogan. Brought off late on as Barcelona looked to see out the game with ten men.

Substitutes

SUB: Hector Fort (46′ for Cancelo) – 7/10 – Brought on for his defensive nous but provided an assist. Funny how football works.

SUB: Vitor Roque (59′ for Gundogan) – 7/10 – Two goals in two games for Barcelona’s newest star. Desperately unlucky to have been sent off.

SUB: Fermin Lopez (75′ for Pedri) – 5/10

SUB: Inigo Martinez (83′ for Cubarsi) – 5/10

SUB: Oriol Romeu (83′ for Christensen) – 5/10

Subs not used: Ander Astralaga (GK), Diego Kochen (GK), Marc Casado, Unai Hernandez, Pau Victor, Marc Guiu

Manager

Xavi – 8/10 – Bar a sketchy opening minute, Barcelona finally looked liberated by news that Xavi will be stepping down. The former midfielder’s team fought for every inch.

Player of the match – Ilkay Gundogan

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