Robert Lewandowski continued his impressive start to life at Barcelona as he netted a brace in his side’s emphatic 4-0 victory over Real Valladolid at Camp Nou on Sunday night.
Xavi’s men threatened inside the opening 12 minutes when the dangerous Raphinha deliver a wicked cross into the penalty area. Lewandowski’s movement was excellent, but he could only divert his header off the post.
The Poland international was causing the Real Valladolid defence issues aplenty in the opening exchanges and he teed up Ousmane Dembele shortly after inside the penalty area. However, the Frenchman could only lash his left-footed effort over the top of the crossbar.
His endeavour was rewarded in the 23rd minute as Raphinha turned provider once again. The Brazilian’s delivery from the right was on the money, sailing dangerously towards the far post where Lewandowski ghosted in to stab the ball into the bottom corner.
Xavi’s side continued to pour forward with menace, and they doubled their advantage shortly before the interval. Dembele dribbled inside from the right this time, skipping through several Real Valladolid challenges before space opened up for Pedri inside the penalty area. The Frenchman threaded a pass into the midfielder who stroked his finish first-time into the bottom corner.
Eric Garcia went close shortly after the restart from a corner. The ball bounced around the penalty area as Real Valladolid failed to clear the danger, falling invitingly to the Spaniard who could only fire his effort straight at Jordi Masip.
Lewandwoski then put the game beyond doubt to grab his second goal of the evening. Dembele was the architect for the second time in the game, striding forward with menace to slip a gorgeous through pass into the Pole’s path. Having been taken wide, Lewandowski produced an exquisite finish with his heel that trickled into the far bottom corner.
Valladolid almost came close to a breakthrough of their own in the 68th minute. Oscar Plano forced Marc-Andre ter Stegen into a diving save before Roque Mesa’s follow-up was blocked heroically on the goalline by Jules Kounde.
Dembele was eager to reward his performance with a goal, and he was left frustrated when his driven effort found the side netting after he worked himself into a promising shooting position.
Substitute Sergi Roberto rounded off the scoring in stoppage time for Xavi’s side, knocking home the rebound after Lewandowski was denied his hat-trick by the crossbar.
Here’s how Xavi’s men rated in the victory.
GK: Marc-Andre ter Stegen – 6/10 – Had barely anything to contend with from a shot-stopping perspective. His passing was particularly impressive.
RB: Jules Kounde – 6/10 – Made his long-awaited Barcelona debut, lining up on the right-hand side of defence. Didn’t show much attacking endeavour which is understandable, but his defensive positioning was sound and he made a great goalline clearance in the second period.
CB: Ronald Araujo – 6/10 – Looked far more assured in his usual position in central defence. Dominant in his defensive duels to allow Barça to sustain their pressure in the Real Valladolid half.
CB: Eric Garcia – 7/10 – Continued his impressive start to the season. His distribution was excellent and he displayed impressive recovery pace on a few occasions.
LB: Alex Balde – 6/10 – Giving Xavi food for thought with his performances. Carried a real swagger and his overlaps down the left-hand side caused Valladolid several problems.
CM: Sergio Busquets – 6/10 – Helped knit Barcelona’s spells of possession together. His presence attracted opponents to him and created space for Pedri and Gavi on either side.
CM: Pedri – 7/10 – Gorgeous first-time finish to double Barça’s advantage in the first half. The sky is the limit for the Spaniard if he begins to add goals to his game.
CM: Gavi – 6/10 – Combined effectively with Raphinha on the right. His underlaps allowed the Brazilian to hug the touchline. Very dangerous when he picked up the ball in space.
RW: Raphinha – 8/10 – Showed electric pace on the right-hand side, delivering with consistency into Lewandowski which led to Barça’s opener. Looks like the perfect fit in this system under Xavi.
ST: Robert Lewandowski – 9/10 – His penalty box prowess was underlined by his ability to consistently get on the end of Raphinha’s wicked deliveries, but his work outside of the area was equally as impressive. An outstanding finish to add his fourth goal in Barça colours this season and only the crossbar prevented him from sealing his hat-trick.
LW: Ousmane Dembele – 9/10 – Had the license to drift inside as opposed to hugging the touchline. Fired shots aplenty and generally wreaked havoc with his unpredictability, underlined by his pair of assists.
SUB: Sergi Roberto (59′ for Araujo) – 6/10 – Allowed Kounde to move into the heart of defence and grabbed a goal for himself in stoppage time.
SUB: Frenkie de Jong (59′ for Gavi) – 5/10 – Showed a couple of promising touches to release Barça into space.
SUB: Ansu Fati (59′ for Raphinha) – 6/10 – Introduced to a loud ovation from the Camp Nou faithful.
SUB: Franck Kessie (76′ for Busquets) – N/A
SUB: Ferran Torres (82′ for Dembele) – N/A
Manager: Xavi – 7/10 – Twinned Raphinha with Dembele and it produced the results that you’d expect from an attacking perspective. Should be the blueprint going forward for these domestic outings at Camp Nou.