Barcelona went top of the Liga table after a comfortable 3-0 win over 10-man Elche at the Camp Nou.
Robert Lewandowski scored twice against the league’s bottom side to help Barca leapfrog Real Madrid in the standings by a single point, for one evening at least. Real take on fierce rivals Atletico Madrid on Sunday.
The result for Elche, meanwhile, means they remain rooted to the bottom of the table on just one point after match where their captain and manager got sent off.
Barcelona dominated from the first minute and a real breakthrough for the hosts came in the 14th minute when Elche’s captain Gonzalo Verdu was shown a straight red card for rugby tackling Lewandowski as he looked set to be clear through on goal.
Barca deservedly took the lead in the 34th minute through the in-form Pole. Alejandro Balde’s low driven ball across the goalmouth was tapped in by the striker at the far post for his tenth goal of the season in all competitions.
The hosts extended their advantage four minutes before the break when Memphis Depay spun his marker John Chetauya inside the box before smashing his shot into the roof of the net.
Barca had the ball in the net again moments later through Pedri, but Lewandowski was offside in the build-up. Nevertheless, Elche boss Francisco Rodriguez was furious and was subsequently sent off by referee Alejandro Ruiz.
Lewandowski got his second and Barca’s third shortly after the break. In the 48th minute, Ousmane Dembele’s low cross was not cleared properly at the near post. The ball squirmed out to Depay who laid it off for Lewandowski to fire in.
Ronald Araujo came closest to getting a fourth for Barca, but his acrobatic scissor-kick volley from two yards out following a corner flied just wide of the post.
TALKING POINT – BARCELONA’S ATTACK IS DEVASTATING
There was a sense of inevitable victory for Barca when Elche’s captain was sent off in the 14th minute. Why? Because a front three of Dembele, Lewandowski and Depay is very difficult to contain.
Barca’s attack completely dominated with nine shots on goal and it could have been even worse for Elche had their goalkeeper Edgar Badia not pulled off a string of fine saves.
There are rightly questions over the fragility of Barca’s defence, highlighted in their 2-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday, but there is little doubt that when Barca face smaller clubs in La Liga this season they will continue to have fun.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI
Eight goals in six La Liga appearances for the Pole is a healthy return.
The former Bayern Munich striker is thriving in his role as a poacher for Barca and was in the right place at the right time to convert two of his strikes from close range on Saturday afternoon.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen (6), Araujo (6), Garcia (6), Kounde (6), Balde (8), Kessie (6), Pedri (7), De Jong (7), Dembele (9), Memphis (8), Lewandowski (9)
Subs: Gavi (6), Fati (7), Bellerin (6), Raphinha (6), Torres (7)
Elche: Badia (7), Palacios (5), Verdu (3), Bigas (4), Clerc (4), Chetauya (5), Guti (4), Gumbau (4), Chaves (4), Morente (5), Boye (5)
Subs: Mercau (5), Quina (5), Ponce (5), Josan (5), Gonzalez (N/A)
14′ – RED CARD FOR VERDU! The Elche captain is shown a straight red card! Lewandowski looked set to be clear through on goal after a fine pass from De Jong, but Verdu rugby tackles him to the floor just outside the box and is rightly sent off. Elche are going to find it extremely hard to get a result at the Nou Camp this afternoon.
34′ – GOAL! BARCELONA 1-0 ELCHE It’s that man Lewandowski! Who else would it be? Pedri’s pass finds Balde on the overlap. He drives his low ball across the goalmouth and Lewandowski is there at the far post to tap in. Barca in front!
41′ – GOAL! BARCELONA 2-0 ELCHE Memphis extends Barca’s lead! Balde is the provider again. He passes to Memphis, who has his back to goal in the box, before using his upper body strength to twist around Chetauya and drive his shot into the top corner.
43′ – NO GOAL! BARCELONA 3-0 ELCHE This is too easy for Barca as Pedri looked to have added a quick third! Dembele’s dinked pass into the box finds Lewandowski. Badia saves with his feet before Pedri pokes it in. However, VAR has ruled it out as Lewandowski was offside!
44′ – RODRIGUEZ SENT OFF! Things have got from bad to worse for Elche as their manager Francisco Rodriguez has been sent off for his protests!
48′ – GOAL! BARCELONA 3-0 ELCHE Lewandowski strikes again! Dembele’s low cross is not cleared properly at the near post. The ball squirms out to Depay who lays it off for Lewandowski to fire in.
80′ – HUGE CHANCE FOR ARAUJO! A glorious chance is spurned from Araujo. From just two yards out at a corner, his scissor kick volley flies wide of the post!