FC Barcelona v Deportivo Alavés: Blaugranes dig deep (2-1)
Barça equal club record by going unbeaten in first 21 games of the season following a comeback home win thanks to second half goals from Suárez and Messi
Barça match the club record set under Pep Guardiola in 2009/10 by going 21 games into a league season without defeat following their comeback win against Alavés at the Camp Nou on Sunday night. Goals from Suárez and Messi were enough to leave FC Barcelona on 57 points, eleven ahead of Atlético.
The blaugranas were up against a team who defeated them at home last season and the Basque side provided Valverde’s men with a thorough examination. From the start, Alavés were compact and Barça took control of the ball.
They probed and their first effort came as Semedo attempted to feed Coutinho, who looked full of verve on his first start for the Club, but the ball was behind him and Lucas Digne flashed an effort just wide.
Alavés were playing in a 4-4-2 with two solid banks of defence but they were also showing some attacking intent on the counter. Perez and Ibai Gómez broke at speed and the former was just beaten to an excellent ball from Ter Stegen who came out well to make an important block in the 16th minute.
Guidetti scores opener
Barça then lost the ball on the edge of the opposition’s box and the Basque side worked the ball forwards quickly for Guidetti to run on to. He had a long time to think about his shot as he ran towards goal and he managed to finish at the near post with a scuffed effort in the 23rd minute.
Valverde’s side would have gone two down a few minutes later had it not been for an excellent reaction save from Ter Stegen as he clawed away a looping Sobrino effort.
Close from Coutinho
The blaugranas needed a response and the captain Andrés Iniesta flashed an effort over the bar following some neat interplay. On 32 minutes, Coutinho almost marked his full debut with a goal; however, his effort was deflected by Duarte who bravely flung himself at the ball.
Lionel Messi fizzed in a delivery from a free-kick on the right. The ball was punched away by Pacheco with no Barça player able to get a touch on it. The blaugranas were dominating possession but were finding it hard to break down ex-FC Barcelona player Abelardo’s tactically astute side.
Knocking on the door
Iniesta and Messi almost found the opener as they linked up beautifully but the Argentinian’s touch let him down when played in by the captain. Soon after, Barça’s number ‘10’ curled a fabulous free-kick on target but Pacheco pushed the ball onto the post.
The second half started with Barça again controlling possession without creating too many chances. Valverde changed things up by bringing on full-backs Roberto and Alba for Digne and Semedo. The substitutes performed excellently as they gave their side some much needed width.
However, the blaugranas needed to be careful when Guidetti played in Perez who slipped the ball to Duarte. The defender’s powerful shot was well blocked by Piqué.
Pacheco once again denied the blaugranas with an excellent save from Suárez, who was found by Messi with a sensational through ball through Duarte’s legs. It was the home team’s best chance of the game so far. Three minutes later, Paulinho almost bundled home but Pacheco made the save.
Persistence pays off
Eventually, the Alavés goal was breached as Suárez equalised following an incredible Iniesta run down the right. The midfielder weaved down the left flank and chipped in a lovely cross which the Uruguayan volleyed past Pacheco in the 72nd minute (1-1).
Suárez was in again on goal following a loose defensive header and he almost doubled the lead but ended up blasting over with the substitute Alcácer well placed.
Messi wonder strike
Wakaso brought down Alcácer on the edge of the box and Barça had a dead ball in prime Messi territory. The Argentinian wizard clinched the three points for his side with an absolutely wonderful free-kick on the edge of the box which dipped and flew into the roof of the net in the 84th minute (2-1).
The two second half goals from the South American strike duo were enough to defeat Aláves following a valiant performance from Abelardo’s side. Valverde’s men had to work very hard to avoid their first defeat of the season and they turned the game around after the break.