Robert Lewandowski shines as his latest brace takes Barcelona top of LaLiga after beating 10-man Elche
Barcelona went top of LaLiga ahead of Real Madrid after a commanding performance against Elche, who went down to 10 men after Gonzalo Verdu received a red in the 14th minute.
– Report: Barca 3-0 Elche | LaLiga table | Upcoming fixtures
Robert Lewandowski scored a brace, with Memphis Depay also getting on the score sheet and netting his first of the season. Verdu’s red card prevented a goal-scoring opportunity for Lewandowski, who was through on goal had it not been for Verdu’s lunging challenge from behind. Elche were thoroughly shut out and did not manage to get a shot on target the whole match.
JUMP TO: Player ratings | Best/worst performers | Highlights and notable moments | Post-match quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures
1. Lewandowski is Barca’s main man
Barcelona bounced back from defeat to Bayern Munich in midweek with another resounding victory in LaLiga. They have now scored three or more goals in five consecutive league games for the first time since the 2017/18 season.
A large part of that is down to Lewandowski, whose brace against Elche took his tally for the season to 11 in all competitions. The Poland striker also becomes the first Barca player other than Lionel Messi to score in five straight LaLiga matches since Luis Suarez, which scored in eight in a row during the 2017-18 campaign.
In just two months, Lewandowski has already established himself as the leader of this Barca side. Coach Xavi Hernandez purrs about his influence on the other players, the advice he gives to the young players and the way he conducts himself on a daily basis. His goals obviously help, too. That is now 10 or more club goals in all competitions for a 12th straight season. His latest brace takes Barca to the top of LaLiga, pending how Real Madrid get on against Atletico Madrid in Sunday’s derby.
2. Alejandro Balde proves left-back position is his
Jordi Alba was named in the Spain squad on Friday for the upcoming international break, but he cannot get a look in at Barca at the moment. That is because of the form of 18-year-old Balde, called up by Spain U21s, who once again justified Xavi’s faith in him against Elche.
Balde, who came through Barca’s academy, set up the opening goal for Lewandowski and the second for Memphis, taking his assist total for the campaign to three. He carried a constant threat on the left, although it remains to be seen how he will stand up defensively in tougher games.
It’s not just Alba, providing competition for Balde, either. Marcos Alonso has also arrived from Chelsea. Alonso played in midweek against Bayern, but Balde has now started five straight league games for the Catalans. The battle for the left-back spot in Barca’s team promises to be fascinating this year.
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3. Elche are early favourites for relegation
It is shaping up to be a long season for Elche, who remain winless after six games in the Primera Division and now sit bottom of the table after Cadiz beat Real Valladolid on Friday to leapfrog them.
Facing an in-form Barcelona at Camp Nou was always going to be tough, but it became a lot tougher when Gonzalo Verdu was sent off in just the 14th minute. Verdu hauled down Lewandowski as he raced on to a Frenkie de Jong through ball. It was a clear dismissal and Elche’s second in the league this season.
Later in the first half, Elche manager Francisco was also given his marching orders for something he said to the match officials. Elche are going to have to keep their heads if they want to climb up the table after the international break.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen 6; Kounde 7, Araujo 6, Garcia 6, Balde 8; De Jong 7, Kessie 5, Pedri 8; Dembele 7, Lewandowski 8, Memphis 6
Substitutes: Gavi 6, Ansu 6, Raphinha 6, Bellerin 6, Torres 6
Elche: Badia 6; Palacios 5, Chetauya 5, Verdu 2, Bigas 5, Clerc 6; Tete Moreno 5, Guti 5, Gumbau 6, Fidel 5; Boye 5
Substitutes: Mercau 6, Quina 6, Ponce 5, Josan 5, Gonzalez 5
Best and worst performers
BEST: Pedri: Lewandowski’s goals will once again take the headlines but Pedri, once again, was fantastic. His ability to read space and time never ceases to amaze and he produced mouth-watering pass after mouth-watering pass, which either helped create the Barca goals or led to clear chances which were not taken.
WORST: Verdu: You can understand why, given how quickly he had to make a decision, he took Lewandowski down, but once he had done, Elche faced a near-impossible task to hold out for another 75 minutes.
Highlights and notable moments
Elche went down to 10 men after 14 minutes into the match after Gonzalo Verdu’s challenge on Lewandowski.
Elche are down to 10-men vs. Barcelona 😬 pic.twitter.com/KVLaEBQSun
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) September 17, 2022
Depay made it 2-0 for Barcelona and scored his first goal of the season.
After the match: What the managers said
“It was an important win. Elche were very defensive at the start with five at the back, but we also lost the ball too much. In the end, it was a slightly more easier game than we expected. It would have been more complicated against 11. After the red card it becomes more positional. We enjoyed outselves in the second half.” – Xavi
“I am happy for him. He has great quality and character. It never ceases to amaze that an 18-year-old can play at that level. Physically he is amazing and he is going to give us a lot. We have three left-backs at an extraordinary level, with Jordi and Marcos as well.” – Xavi on Balde
“I am not at all worried about my future. While the players still believe in us and what we are doing, we’re not going to give up.” – Elche coach Francisco Segura
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
– Lewandowski has scored 10+ club goals for the 12th straight season (all comps). The last time he failed to do so was in his first season with Dortmund in 2010-11 (9 goals).
– Memphis Depay scored his first goal of this season; he led the club in goals last season.
– Elche received a straight red card for the second time in league play this season, tied with Espanyol for most in the league.
– Robert Lewandowski has his 3rd league brace of the season. No one else in LaLiga has more than 1 brace this season.
Barcelona: The Blaugrana visit Mallorca on Oct. 1, followed by a visit to Inter Milan in the Champions League on Oct. 4 before going to Real Madrid for the first El Clasico of the season.
Elche: Struggling Elche sit last in the LaLiga table, and are next in action on Oct. 3, when they travel to Rayo Vallecano. Then they face Mallorca at home on Oct. 10 before a visit to Valencia on Oct. 16.