Barcelona played a highly entertaining game in their final home game of 2021, coming away with all three points thanks to a 3-2 win over Elche at Camp Nou. Barca were the better side for most of the game, but had a brain teaser to start the second half, conceding two goals and needing a late winner from substitute Nico González to return to winning ways in the competition.
Ferran Jutglà saw his first first team goal disallowed for offside just two minutes into the game, signaling things to come. Barça dominated the first half thoroughly, with really intense, dynamic attacking football with the ball moving quickly and the attacking players constantly switching positions and taking defenders to create chances with their speed and skill.
Ez Abde and Ousmane Dembélé were great on the wings, Jutglà looked like an accomplished striker in the lead but the star of the half was Gavi. The midfielder played effectively as a number 10 and absolutely led the show from that position, connecting defense and attack with wonderful poise and intelligence. He also scored a spectacular goal, receiving the ball on the half turn and beating two defenders before finding the bottom corner.
That was Barça’s second goal, which gave Barça the lead just three minutes after Jutglà headed in a corner from Ousmane Dembélé. The Blaugrana had at least two great chances to make it 3-0, but Frenkie De Jong lost a one-on-one with the keeper and Gavi got a certain goal from the line.
At halftime, a seriously impressive performance saw the home side lead with two goals and look strongly ahead to the closing period.
Barca came out for the second half without the focus and intensity they showed in the first half and started conceding opportunities to Elche, while not playing the same high quality attacking stuff from the first 45 minutes. The Blaugrana looked like they were on autopilot in the second half, and they paid for it.
Elche only needed two minutes to completely turn the game upside down, thanks to goals from Morente and Milla in which Marc-André ter Stegen absolutely should have done better. In the space of 100 seconds, the score was 2-2 with the away team confident, and Barca had to find their way back with very few options on the bench.
Xavi brought in Nico González and Riqui Puig in the hopes that the duo would bring some creativity and speed to the attack, and Barça looked more menacing as we reached the final 10 minutes. And against all odds, they found the winner: Gavi played a stunning one-two with Dembélé and found Nico González, who came off the bench to punch in third and give Barça a very late lead.
The home side held on to the result and the final whistle gave Barca a hard-fought but crucial victory. The first half was excellent and the response after the two Elche goals was very strong, but the attitude during the first 20 minutes of the second half is unacceptable. Barca don’t have the luxury of playing games with the current state of play, and they have to be focused for the entire 90 minutes. They got away with it this time, but it can’t happen again.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Araujo, Eric, Lenglet; De Jong (Puig 76′), Busquets, Alba; gavi; Dembele, Jutglà (Nico 72′), Abde (Balde 89′)
goals: Jutgla (16′), Gavi (19′), Nico (85′)
Elche: Badia; Palacios, Roco, Gonzalez, Mojica (Josema 83′); Josan (Morente 46′), Marcone (Gumbau 46′), Mascarell (Guti 60′), Fidel (Mile 60′); Perez, Boye
goals: Morente (62′), Milla (63′)