Barcelona extend LaLiga lead as Pedri scores on his 100th appearance
GIRONA – Pedri’s third goal in his last four games gave Barcelona a crucial 1-0 away win at Girona on Saturday as Xavi Hernandez’s side cemented their grip on the top spot in LaLiga.
The midfielder scored on the hour, converting his sixth goal of the season from close range after Paulo Gazzaniga sent a Jordi Alba cross his way.
Barca, who fended off a late Girona attack, are temporarily six points ahead of Real Madrid, who host third-placed Real Sociedad at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.
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1. Barca survive attacking absences to earn points
A trip to a cold and windy Estadi Montilivi would never be easy for Barca but their task was further complicated by the absence of 22-goal top scorer Robert Lewandowski and suspension Ferran Torres. Then they lost Ousmane Dembele, who was in great form, to injury in the first half, leaving them without scoring threat against a Girona side who like to sit back and counter-attack.
In the first half, a draw seemed possible without either side really getting close. Yan Couto missed the home side’s best chance early on and Ansu Fati shot over the bar after a defensive error for Barca.
Xavi brought in Jordi Alba for Marcos Alonso at the break to make up for the lack of width down the left and the move soon paid off. Alba had already put himself in several good positions when his cross led to the opener. Frenkie de Jong also pressed and pushed a lot harder to help Ansu and Raphinha in attack.
The goal forced Girona to play more on the front foot, but Barca – thanks to a Ronald Araujo header off the line, some good defense against Jules Kounde and a willful finish – saw the game conceding a 14th goal in 18 LaLiga games from season.
2. Pedri “Potter” stars at 100th appearance
Pedri was deemed unfit to start this game after taking a hit against Real Sociedad midweek. However, due to Dembele’s injury and lack of attacking depth, he was needed earlier than planned.
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So, at the age of 20, he performed for his 100th Barcelona game. Xavi has asked him to take more goalscoring positions and he is responding. His goal here was an example of being in the right place at the right time as he became Barca’s match-winner for the second weekend in a row. He also scored the only goal against Getafe last Sunday.
His performances have earned him the nickname ‘Pedri Potter’ and when Montilivi fell silent after his strike, that was all the radio commentators heard screaming.
3. Competitive Girona falls short
Girona drew against Madrid earlier this season but failed to take points from Barca. Despite a spirited performance from behind, they were beaten by their Catalan rivals for the third straight La Liga season at Montilivi.
You will bemoan missed chances late in the game. Ivan Martin missed the best of them and Valery shot over the goal in stoppage time. There was also an Araujo header off the line and a final defense against Kounde as the 13,500 crowd cheered on their team.
It wasn’t to be, however, and Girona remain pointless against Barca in the top flight. They have shown throughout the season that they should have more than enough to stay up front, although four points off the last three will be worrying for coach Michel, who was sent off late.
Best and worst performers
Best: Pedri, Barcelona
The Catalan team’s match-winner for the second year in a row.
Best: Ronald Araujo, Barcelona
The Uruguayan’s recovery pace helped Barca on several occasions and he was a rock when Girona pressed late.
Best: Rodrigo Riquelme, Girona
The Atletico Madrid winger on loan caused many problems with his tricky footwork.
Worst: Ousmane Dembele, Barcelona
Started slow and then got substituted with an injury. Given his form and importance, Barca will hope it’s nothing serious.
Worst: Paulo Gazzaniga, Girona
Could have done better as he flattened the ball to Pedri for goal.
Worst: Ivan Martin, Girona
Missed a glorious late chance to take a point.
Highlights and notable moments
Pedri saved Barca in the second LaLiga game in a row.
PEDRI FIND THE BREAKTHROUGH FOR BARCELONA 🤩 pic.twitter.com/77wAViVSaN
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 28, 2023
After the game: What the coaches and players said
Barcelona head coach Xavi: “We have to improve, especially by getting stronger offensively. Girona have changed their style [sitting back] which surprised us, but we dominated the ball and pushed up. We have to do more. In the last third we have to calm down. I’m happy with the three points, but we have to be self-critical and recognize that there are situations where we need to improve.”
Xavi on Dembele injury: “I think it’s an injury. He felt something in his quadriceps. He’ll have tests but he’ll miss a few games, we just hope [he is out] for the least possible time. We wanted to open the field with him today, put him in one-on-one situations and we lost a real difference maker when he left the field.”
Xavi on Pedri: “He changes our game, he gets between the lines, his last pass … and if you add his assists and goals, we’re talking about one of the best in the world in his position. He sometimes has to take more risks, but that’s also true for Gavi, Frenkie, Kessie… However I’m really happy for Pedri who is making his 100th game for the club and his numbers are fantastic.”
Girona head coach Michel: “We played really well. We tried really hard and had three or four really good chances. Barca only got their goal as a big chance. It’s a shame to lose, I’d say it’s not a fair result based on that , What.” was seen in the square.
This Barcelona side is very intense. Your pressing after losing the ball is so good, the best in the league. They push you, they pin you down and they won’t let you out. But I think we did well, we minimized their chances and created our own. I’m happy with the performance.”
Key Stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
In his 100th game with Barcelona, Pedri scored his 15th goal (all competitions).
Pedri: Third goal in the last four games. That’s his total from the previous 23 games (all comps).
This is the first time in the last 20 years that Barcelona have won three games in a row 1-0 in all competitions.
Barcelona: Barca will next visit Real Betis in LaLiga on Wednesday 1 February (live on ESPN+ at 15:00 ET). Then Barcelona host Seville on Sunday, February 5 (live on ESPN+ at 3pm ET).
Girona: Blanquivermells will host Valencia in LaLiga on Sunday February 5 (live on ESPN+ at 10:15am ET).
https://www.espn.com/soccer/barcelona-espbarcelona/story/4863155/barcelona-extend-laliga-lead-as-pedri-scores-on-his-100th-appearance Barcelona extend LaLiga lead as Pedri scores on his 100th appearance