3 Reasons why Barcelona beat Rayo Vallecano
Barcelona restored their seven-point advantage at the top of the table courtesy a comfortable 3-1 victory over bottom dwellers, Rayo Vallecano.
However, it wasn’t all plain sailing for the hosts as they found themselves a goal down in the 24th minute. After pinching the ball in their own half, Rayo sprang a swift counter-attack which culminated with Raul de Tomas curling an effort beyond Marc Andre Ter Stegen’s reach.
The home side though hit back seven minutes before the break as Gerard Pique headed home from a Lionel Messi free-kick.
Barcelona started the second half brightly and were rewarded for their efforts in the 51st minute when Nelson Semedo was brought down in the box. The resulting spot-kick was dispatched clinically by Lionel Messi.
The home side eventually put the game to bed courtesy a Luis Suarez strike in the 82nd minute.
Barcelona wasn’t at its fluent best through the course of the game. Yet, like many a time before, the hosts got the job done.
Here is a look at the three factors that helped them achieve victory:
#3. Barcelona run Rayo ragged on the wings
Ernesto Valverde decided to field the more attack-minded Semedo at full-back whereas Philippe Coutinho got the nod ahead of Ousmane Dembele on the left flank. Though the former Liverpool man failed to inspire, the Portuguese was at his attacking best.
The right-back enjoyed a superb game and ventured forward at every occasion. However, on Saturday, he showcased more composure than previous weeks and deservedly played a crucial role in Barcelona’s second goal.
After being freed on the right flank, Semedo expertly cut inside the Rayo defender and left him for dead. The latter inevitably tripped the former to accord Barcelona a chance to take the lead from twelve yards.
Apart from the Portuguese, Jordi Alba was at his marauding best and provided width on the left wing. Additionally, Dembele impacted the game significantly after coming on at half-time. The Frenchman’s pace was a constant thorn in the visitors’ rear-guard and his direct running led to the third goal.
At times this season, Barcelona has looked vulnerable on the wings. The likes of Semedo and Dembele haven’t been consistent while Coutinho has endured a season to forget.
However, at the Camp Nou on Saturday, they faced no such issues and their constant bombarding of the flanks helped them break down a stubborn Rayo defence.