Ernesto Valverde’s second game as the manager of FC Barcelona was far from plain sailing despite Barcelona winning all three points at Mendizorrotza in Vitoria on Saturday night. His side are now two wins for two without conceding a goal while their hosts fall to their second loss on the trot without scoring one.
Alavés sat back with the option to counter to start the half but retreated deeper as the half wore on and they sensed their might be a point, or more, in the offing for them.
They had the best chance of the half from open play when Ruben Sobrino left Gerard Pique for dead but saw his shot saved by Marc Andre Ter Stegen as he came off his line to limit the attacker’s options.
Lionel Messi had the chance to put Barcelona ahead from the penalty spot when Rodrigo Ely was deemed to have pulled Gerard Pique back as he lined up a chilena from a corner.
Messi versus Pacheco was set up and Pacheco came out on top. He turned Messi’s penalty around the post for a corner and Alavés really started to believe it might be their day.
That’s when things got a little hairy for Luis Zubeldia’s side as they started to panic with their clearences and hoping against hope for the half-time whistle. It did come but not before they were made to sweat as Barcelona turned up the heat.
The second half was barely a minute old when Ibai Gomez broke to the left with Manu Garcia in support and the former’s cross nearly reached his captain. Ter Stegen might have had it covered but Alavés were getting close.
The game ebbed and flowed with Alaves threatening on the counter and Barcelona doing everything they could to beat Fernando Pacheco. But the breakthrough was yet to arrive for either team.
The goal finally came for Barcelona, and for Messi, who went without a goal against Real Betis despite hitting the woodwork three times and was facing another scoreless 90 minutes after his penalty miss in the first half.
Jordi Alba made a move down the left and got the ball in space. He crossed to Messi and he stepped in front of Tomas Pina only to drive a shot towards goal. It looked like it might be off target but a deflection off Alexis and Fernando Pacheco was helpless at his near post.
Barcelona had the lead and a relieved Lionel Messi punched the air.
He had his second and 350th in LaLiga, becoming the first person to ever do that, on 66 minutes when Alexis’ failed clearance landed on his left foot. The number 10 drove home with Fernando Pacheco rooted firmly to his spot as Alaves’ hopes of a even a point dissolved into thin air.
Messi hit the crossbar shortly after and Barcelona continued to look entirely comfortable after that breakthrough goal. They escaped with all three points and that’s all that matters for now until Dembele and any other signing they bring in gets involved but there were certainly some nervy moments before they got that goal when the game was anyone’s.
Here are the highlights