Match Report: Barcelona 3-1 Valencia – Fati and Depay help ease pressure on Koeman

Barcelona's Ansu Fati celebrates his leveller against Valencia

Ansu Fati and Memphis Depay helped ease the pressure on Ronald Koeman as Barcelona sealed a 3-1 win over Valencia at Camp Nou on Sunday.

The Catalan giants had won just three of their opening seven LaLiga games before the visit of Los Che and more disappointment looked a real possibility when Jose Gaya powered Jose Bordalas’ side ahead early on.

Fati, whose return from a long-term knee injury had been limited to substitute appearances before the international break, marked his first start since November 7 with a superb equaliser, while Depay put them in front from the penalty spot before the interval.

Substitute Philippe Coutinho gave the scoreline a healthier look five minutes from full-time as Barca, who handed former Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero a late debut from the bench, sealed an important win.

It took just five minutes for Valencia to take the lead, Gaya lashing a superb half-volley into Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s bottom-right corner from 30 yards.

Barca responded well, though, and drew level eight minutes later when Fati whipped past Jasper Cillessen from just outside the penalty area after a one-two with Depay.

The Dutchman then put the hosts ahead four minutes before the interval, thumping home from the penalty spot after Gaya had brought down Fati inside the area.

Cillessen got down well at his near post to keep out Fati’s effort shortly after the restart, while at the other end Carlos Soler saw an effort crash back off Ter Stegen’s right-hand post.

Ter Stegen had to be alert to keep out Goncalo Guedes’ powerful strike shortly before the hour mark as Valencia threatened to restore parity.

Maxi Gomez almost drew Valencia level with a long-range free-kick that flashed past Ter Stegen’s upright inside the final 10 minutes, yet it was Coutinho who had the final say, the Brazil international sliding in his first goal of the season from close range.

What does it mean? Barca prevail against tough opponents

Koeman’s next crisis is unlikely to be far away given how chaotic his reign has been so far, but he has at least bought himself some time out of the spotlight with this win.

They were pushed all the way by a spirited Valencia side, who have now picked up just two points from their last five games, but with 60.5 per cent possession and more shots (12 to their visitors’ nine), Barca will claim they were good value for the win.

Fit-again Fati thriving

If Fati was fazed by inheriting Lionel Messi’s iconic number 10 shirt, he is not showing it. Making his first start in almost a year, the 18-year-old was comfortably Barca’s best player before his 59th-minute withdrawal. He drew his side level with a sumptuous strike – one of a joint team-high three shots – before winning the penalty for Depay’s emphatic spot-kick.

Depay delivers a rounded display

Fati’s leveller was teed up by Depay, with the duo suggesting that they might be able to strike up a fearsome partnership. The game marked the first time Depay had scored and assisted in a single game for Barca, while it was the first time he had achieved it in a home league game since August 2019 when he was playing for Lyon.

What’s next?

After defeats in their opening two Group E games, Barca desperately need to claim all three points against Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday to keep their Champions League hopes alive. That is followed by a mouth-watering Clasico against Real Madrid at Camp Nou on Sunday, a day after Valencia host Real Mallorca.

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