Blaugrana comeback to take control of Champions League race
Second-half goals from Ferran Torres and Memphis Depay moved Barcelona into third place after a hard-fought battle with a stubborn Elche side at Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero.
The Catalan giants came into the game knowing they could jump above Real Betis in third place and boost their Champions League asspirations, while Elche knew a sixth straight home win could ease their relegation worries and extend their cushion on the drop zone to eight. Barcelona started off by applying a lot of pressure on Elche’s two strong defensive lines of four, which managed to handle the early runs of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ousmane Dembélé down the right-hand side.
Barça nearly took the lead when Dembélé got open on the edge of the six-yard box and tried to chip Édgar Badía, who palmed the ball into the path of Frenkie de Jong, but he saw his shot cleared off the line by Diego González to keep the hosts level. The Blaugrana will have regretted their missed chances as Elche took the lead minutes before HT, as Pedri looked to pass back to the defence off of a long ball, but his loose ball was picked up by Fidel Chaves who slotted the ball past Marc-André ter Stegen.
The opening stages of the second-half followed a similar tempo to the first, with the visitors controlling the ball and pushing Elche back into their half, but ‘Los Franjiverdes’ continued to stifle Xavi’s men. Barça finally got their goal on the hour mark, as Jordi Alba steered Dembélé’s cross into the feet of substitute Torres, who poked the ball past Badía. The visitors continued to push for a winner and were able to take the lead thanks to a penalty courtesy of VAR. Antonio Barragán was adjudged to have handled the ball, which gave Depay the chance to convert and make it 2-1 to the visitors.
The late spot-kick was enough to seal a crucial win which sees Xavi and co. move above Real Betis into 3rd, while Elche see their unbeaten run at home ended and leaves them five points above the drop zone.