The great unknown of Barça’s match at Elche was to know how they would react after the national team stoppage. International commitments don’t usually go well with Xavi Hernández’s team, which has always had problems regaining its physical form. With the semi-final of the Cup against Madrid on the horizon – it’s Wednesday -, with the League up for a verdict – they went to Elche with a 12-point lead – and with the condition of playing against the outstanding team, who was making his debut as the sixth coach of season -Sebastian Beccacece replaced Pablo Machín-, the big risk was that Barça wanted to win the game without getting off the bus. But Xavi’s Barça, hungry after three years without a sniff of the League, is made of a different dough. He was better than Elche and he showed it, even if it was with more or less cash available and in a match that, except for the final thrashing, was many things except attractive.
Christensen, De Jong, Pedri, Dembélé and Raphinha could not be there. Araujo was returning from an injury and Xavi chose to revolutionize the eleven, giving Eric García his debut as a pivot, taking the place of a Sergio Busquets who watched the game from the bench. Between the changes and Elche playing for their lives, the first steps were difficult for the Blaugranas, who neither had the ball nor came close to Edgar Badia’s goal. The weight of the match was carried by the locals, full of courage. But in football it’s not enough to get excited, you need individual quality, and the locals are very fair on that. A good example is the ten arrivals they had, with corners and lateral fouls, in the first half. They only finished one between the three posts, well solved by an imposing Ter Stegen. And, as if he didn’t have enough misfortunes, he lost the attacker Carmona, precisely in a transition in which he faced goal but had to abort because he suffered a muscle tear. In the end, when everything was already decided, they arrived with more danger. It is clear that by then Barça had already given the game over and had the upcoming classic in mind.
The minutes passed and the game was neither forward nor backward. And then Lewandowski appeared. The Pole, who spent half the game talking to the referee, complaining about unmarked fouls, broke the curse that had accompanied him since February. The last goal in the League had been against Cadiz. More than a month of drought that broke Martínez Valero, in a shot as strange as it was lucky: after Araujo brought down a cross, the Pole turned around and shot with his right, but the ball hit his left boot, he raised and baffled the entire local defense. More goals could have arrived before the break, but the other two clear chances, also from Lewandowski and Kounde, did not find the net.
Everyone was looking closely at Ansu Fati’s game, the negative protagonist of the week due to the unfortunate statements of his father, Bori, demanding more minutes and threatening a change of scenery. It has not been an easy day for the youth striker, who had to apologize internally. But football is capricious and Ansu had a golden opportunity in Elche to vindicate himself. He tried until he found the goal prize. No one will be able to reproach him for wanting to ask for the ball and to be important. He did not succeed in the first half, unable to overcome rivals in the sprint or to unbalance in the one on one. But in the restart he took advantage of Mascarell’s indecision in defense to advance meters from his own field, reach the front and beat Edgar Badia with a dry and tight shot on the post.
The 0-2 left an Elx without arguments that melted as the minutes passed. Gavi took advantage of a mistake by Nico in the exit from the back to recover the ball and assist Lewandowski, who had a free way to score the third. And on a night where everyone was reunited with the goal, Ferran Torres was no less and put the icing on the cake with a goal that bore his personal stamp: a control on the front, a cut to make space and a shot with a nut that meant the fourth. Barça, who had time to give Aleix Garrido his debut with the first team, sleeps 15 points behind Real Madrid. This League does not escape him.