Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored his first goals for Barcelona as they beat Valencia 4-1 at the Mestalla in La Liga on Sunday.
Barcelona started the game knowing that a win would take them into fourth place and the Champions League places, as they looked to continue their mid-season turnaround under Xavi Hernandez.
Aubameyang is at the heart of that following his January free transfer from Arsenal, and despite the risks of bringing him in, he repaid the faith placed in him with two first-half goals.
In between his brace was another for Frenkie De Jong, who has often seen his future as uncertain at Camp Nou, but this was a more rounded display from a team who look to be rapidly improving.In the second half.
Carlos Soler put away on-loan Bryan Gil’s cross with a brilliant header to cut the deficit on 52 minutes however Barcelona hit back with an excellent, rasping shot from substitute Pedri, who beat the ‘keeper through sheer power, though he may have been helped by a potential deflection off Aubameyang.
The three-goal lead restored, Barcelona held on as they prepare for their Europa visit to Napoli before the game with Athletic Bilbao next weekend.
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Xavi Hernandez has taken over after Ronald Koeman presided over a miserable affair. The Spaniard’s return was well-timed, with the Dutchman dealing with something of a hospital pass as the club dealt with coronavirus and Lionel Messi’s departure.
However, Xavi was far from certain to make a success of his return, and his success is a credit to his abilities. The players who underperformed before are now playing just as Barcelona used to under Pep Guardiola.
There’s still a long way to go, but this is the first time in years that there is deserve positivity around the club.
MAN OF THE MATCH – PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG
The 32-year-old faced the end of his career in the winter transfer window when it seemed the only clubs will to take a risk were in Saudi Arabia. Fine for his bank balance, but not for his legacy. A move to Barcelona somehow materialised, and he showed his best qualities again.
Whatever the reasons for his departure from Arsenal, he is now at a better club, a more glamorous club, and one more likely to succeed in Europe. A late career resurgence may prove Mikel Arteta wrong.
Valencia: Mamardashvili 6, Hugo 6, Guedes 6, Soler 7, Diakhaby 6, Gaya 6, Alderete 6, Hugo Duro 6, Folquier 6, Bryan 6, Ilaix Moriba 6. Subs: Gomez 6, Racic 6, Lato 7, Andre 6, Comert 6.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen 7, Dest 7, Araujo 6, Sergio 7, Dembele 7, Alba 7, Ferran 7, De Jong 7, Eric 6, Aubameyang 8, Gavi 7. Subs: Mingueza 6, Pedri 7, Nico 6, Traore 6, De Jong 6.
23’ – GOAL! VALENCIA 0-1 BARCELONA – AUBAMEYANG SCORES – The Gabonese striker gets his first goal for his new club. A ball over the top is picked up by Aubameyang, killing the ball to a slow roll, and he lifts a rising shot past the ‘keeper at the near post.
32’ – GOAL! VALENCIA 0-2 BARCELONA – DE JONG SCORES – The Dutchman prods home after Alba dinks a great ball for
Dembele, who squares to De Jong to fall into the ball and send it into an empty net.
38’ – GOAL! VALENCIA 0-3 BARCELONA – AUBAMEYANG SCORES – Gavi whips in a ball from inside the box for another open goal for Aubameyang, but it will probably be ruled out for offside.
46’ – GAVI CHANCE – The playmaker fizzes in a low shot that the ‘keeper does well to beat wide.
52’ – GOAL! VALENCIA 1-3 BARCELONA – SOLER SCORES – The on-loan Spurs winger Bryan Gil picks out Soler, who thunders his effort home.
63’ – GOAL! VALENCIA 1-4 BARCELONA – AUBAMEYANG OR PEDRI SCORES – FLIP! Pedri has the ball from about 25 yards out, and he just fires in a shot that skips the back of Aubameyang and just past the dividing ‘keeper.