Barca's young guns come up trumps again in late win over Elche

AFP , Saturday 18 Dec 2021

Barcelona’s youngsters spared their blushes again on Saturday as 19-year-old Nico Gonzalez scored a late winner to seal a much-needed 3-2 victory over Elche.

BarcBarcelona s Spanish midfielder Nico Gonzalez gestures next to Elche s Spanish defender Josema (B
Barcelona s Spanish midfielder Nico Gonzalez gestures next to Elche s Spanish defender Josema (BOTTOM) during the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and Elche CF at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on December 18, 2021. AFP

Nico’s strike came after the 22-year-old Ferran Jutgla, making his full debut, and the 17-year-old Gavi had earlier given Barca a two-goal lead at Camp Nou.

But Elche scored twice in 96 seconds shortly after the hour as Tete Morente and Pere Milla pulled the visitors level, only for Nico to drag Barcelona over the line.

The result prevented Barcelona from going four games without a win under Xavi Hernandez and lifts them up to seventh in La Liga, three points behind Rayo Vallecano in fourth, having played a game fewer.

Gavi’s goal made him the club’s third youngest ever scorer in La Liga at 17 years and 135 days, younger even than Lionel Messi when he opened his account aged 17 years and 331 days.

Jutgla also registered his first professional goal, after coming off the bench last weekend against Osasuna and then scoring against Boca Juniors on Tuesday in the Maradona Cup, an exhibition match held in honour of Diego Maradona.

Nico’s goal completed another exciting night for Barca’s young guns, less than a week after Xavi said his veterans needed to do more, insisting they could not rely on the next generation to deliver every week.

Impressive Gavi

Gavi, though, was particularly impressive, the teenager scoring a superb individual goal in the first half, before then assisting Nico's winner late in the second.

Barcelona were cruising after they scored twice in three minutes. Jutgla had already shown a sharp finish early on but was offside before he headed in Ousmane Dembele’s swinging corner at the front post in the 16th minute.

And in the 19th, it was two, Gavi with a spectacular goal to put his team in control.

He spotted Omar Mascarell approaching behind him when Clement Lenglet played the ball and he flicked it with his right foot away from his marker, his body spinning away into the space. Gavi drove forward and when he reached the edge of the box, fired the ball low into the corner.

But Elche had openings on the break and it was two substitutes that dragged them back into the game just after the hour.

First, a superb counter-attack began down the left as Dembele’s press was beaten too easily and Lucas Boye did well to keep the ball in off the line. He switched it right to Tete Morente, who smashed in.

Only 96 seconds had passed before they were celebrating again, Morente freed again down the right and this time crossing to the back post where Milla’s header could only be palmed in off the post by Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Frenkie de Jong, linked with an exit in the January transfer window, departed to whistles in the 76th minute but a tense atmosphere turned joyous in the 85th.

Gavi was at the heart of it again, a neat one-two with Dembele sending the teenager to the line, where he had the composure to pull back for Nico who poked in on the stretch.

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