Ronald Koeman's reign at Barcelona got off to a flying start as they swept past Villareal at the Camp Nou with relative ease. The Dutch legend was hired to replace the departing Quique Setien after Barcelona's most humiliating night in their immensely long history.
The cracks that were being papered over were now out in the open for everyone to see. Lionel Messi, whose discontent with the current board is well documented, to say the least, had decided to leave the club in the aftermath of the aforementioned night. Several key players came out with scathing indictments of the clubs' method of operating over the past few seasons and supported the Argentinian maestro in his decision to depart his boyhood club.
After several twists in that drawn-out saga, we arrived here at the beginning of the Blaugrana's title challenge under new stewardship, with Lionel Messi still, in fact, a Barcelona player. The club had made several 'sales' with Arturo Vidal, Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic all leaving the club rather unceremoniously. Arthur and Nelson Semedo also became victims of this board's questionable decision making departing for Juventus and Wolves respectively.
Barcelona were quite nervy in the first few minutes of the game, with Villareal getting the first clear opportunity. Samuel Chukweze made a poor pass inside the box to Alcacer and the move that cut open the defense fizzled out. It seemed along with that move, so did Villareal's hopes of getting a first league win over this rival since 2008(!), as Barcelona started to take more and more control of the match.
In the 15th minute, Ansu Fati hammered Barcelona's first league goal of the season with a beautiful first time finish from Alba's cutback. The Spanish left back showed he still has some life in his legs as he chased the ball for a great distance to get to it in order to lay it up for the teenager.
3 minutes later, the prodigy did it again as he slotted a finish into the bottom left corner to put some distance between the hosts and the visitors. This time he was assisted by Barcelona's most expensive signing ever, Coutinho, who led a brilliant counter attack and found Fati in space, and the La Masia graduate did the rest.
The Barcelona youngster continued to torment Villareal, as around the 34th minute, he was brought down by Mario Gaspar in the box, leading to a penalty which was taken by the publicly disgruntled Messi. The Argentine wizard did just enough to get the best of Sergio Asenjo in goal, who got his hand to it but couldn't keep it out.
With the score now beyond doubt, Barcelona really brought out their 'A' game, as a brilliant team move lead to Pau Torres stabbing the ball in his own net, with Messi trying to find Busquets of all people, in yards of space inside the box.
After that it was pretty much cruise control for Barca, with Sergio Asenjo keeping the scoreline decent after an array of chances for the home side in the second half as well.
Here are the player ratings from Barcelona's first win under Ronald Koeman
FC Barcelona Player Ratings:
The Brazilian shot stopper had a rather quiet night in goal tonight, with not much to do other than one save and a few throws and passes here and there. He was tidy in posession and didn't misplace any of his passes. Rose up to the task whenever necessary and kept the hosts at bay.
SERGI ROBERTO: 7/10
Barcelona defenders did not have much of a test tonight from the visiting side, who need to find a better way to make use of the brilliant squad they have assembled. All credit to Roberto though, he was sharp the couple of times he was actually needed to be, and was overall a great outlet going forward.
GERARD PIQUE: 7/10
Pretty much most of what was said above applies for Pique too, with him popping up a couple of times in the Villareal box to add another body in the attack, and it almost paid off for him as he could've gone home with a goal if not for some great goalkeeping.
CLEMENT LENGLET: 6/10
Lenglet, in the current circumstances, is a better player than Gerard Pique. Atleast defensively speaking, against the type of speedy forwards teams prefer to play, he's certainly better suited. The thing is, when he's not having the best of nights, or when he isn't fully fit (either of which could be the case tonight) he tends to make rash mistakes. They didn't cost the team tonight, but this tendency of his is something to watch out for as the season develops.
JORDI ALBA: 8.5/10
Jordi Alba seemed to be one of those whose time in a Barcelona shirt had come to an end. Having stuck around despite the negativity and noise around his performances last season, he demonstrated his worth to fans who were starting to question his displays with a memorable one tonight.
SERGIO BUSQUETS: 7/10
Busquets put in a solid shift tonight, having stuck around the club after facing the same issues as his previously mentioned teammate. He demonstrated why his involvement is integral for Barcelona with some superb recycling and passing to help the home team dominate the first half. He almost got a goal from a sublime Messi pass that was intercepted by Pau Torres, who turned it in his own net. Brilliant night for the veteran.
FRENKIE DE JONG: 8/10
It's great to see one of the youngest midfielders in the game being a player for the now as well as the future. Frenkie de Jong's rise to stardom has truly been something else, and tonight, he showed why he is the present and also future of this setup in the middle of the park.
LIONEL MESSI: 8/10
Messi after a long drawn out saga, played his first official game for Barcelona after their drubbing at the hands of Bayern back in August. He put in a shift and a half tonight as he played in a very fluid setup between himself, Fati and Coutinho, drifting between the right flank and the middle as he saw fit. He got a very well deserved goal, but should have gotten more, and also claimed an assist.
PHILIPPE COUTINHO: 8.5/10
Philippe Countinho seemed to be desperate to deliver on the huge investment the club made on him almost two years ago. He slotted behind Griezmann seamlessly, but he seemed to have tired out by the time he got subbed off in the 70th minute. Overall an extremely solid performance, with an assist to show for it too.
ANSU FATI: 9/10
Ansu Fati put in one of the most magestic performances in recent history by a teenager. He almost got a first half hat-trick, but settled for a brace, as his goals were the ones that set the tone for the game. He was the one who was fouled in the box for the penalty that was later scored by Messi. Barcelona fans will be thrilled with his display
ANTOINE GRIEZMANN: 6.5/10
While he was livlier than he was during almost all of last season, Antoine Griezmann got off to a slow start. He made some great darting runs behind the Villareal backline, but was unfortunate not be found by any of his Barcelona teammates when he was in space.
While Barcelona debuts were handed to Pedri, Pjanic and Trincao, Ousmanne Dembele also returned to the pitch tonight after a prolonged absence. He will certainly want to get his career up and running with the club this year.
The stints given out to these guys was incredibly short and they couldn't really impose themselves on the game and demonstrate their abilities. Here is hoping to more chances for the new boys during the season.Published 28 Sep 2020, 11:57 IST