Barcelona stretched their unbeaten run in La Liga to six games as they beat bottom-of-the-table Huesca 1-0 on Sunday.
Frenkie de Jong scored the only goal at the Estadio El Alcoraz, turning home Lionel Messi’s cross in the 27th minute as Barca moved up to fifth in the standings.
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De Jong’s improved efficiency in the final third — two goals and one assist in his past five league games — and Pedri’s consistency have taken some of the weight off of Barca’s forwards to score. The return of Ousmane Dembele from injury has also added a different dimension to Barca’s attack. He was good again against Huesca, completing 90 minutes.
And while Ronald Koeman won’t have been happy that his side didn’t wrap up the win earlier, he will have been happy with how comfortably they saw it out in the final stages of the game. There were no individual mistakes and Barca rarely looked out of control.
The flip side to that is that they were in a position where they had to see the game out when they should and could have scored more. However, for the umpteenth time this season, they missed too many chances. A combination of poor finishing and heroics from goalkeeper Alvaro Fernandez meant they only ended the night with one goal against the league’s second-worst defence.
Manager rating out of 10
6 — Koeman reverted to a four-man defence having dabbled with a back three in the last two games. His Barca side were especially good in the first half, suffocating Huesca, but didn’t take their chances. Left his substitutes late.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 7 — Tested a couple of times late on, making a smart save from a Rafa Mir flick, but his best moment was controlling the ball with his head on his goal line after a stray Busquets back pass.
DF Sergino Dest, 5 — Got into good positions on the right but was wasteful with his final delivery.
DF Ronald Araujo, 6 — Was solid when called upon but spent most of the game watching his teammates attack.
DF Clement Lenglet, 6 — Like Araujo, had a quiet night, but showed good concentration late on when Huesca pushed for an unlikely equaliser.
DF Jordi Alba, 7 — Missed the last match through suspension and started the game like someone who had just returned from a break. Linked well with Dembele and, especially early on, put some dangerous crosses into the box.
MF Sergio Busquets, 6 — Led Barca’s press from high up the pitch and made some intelligent interceptions.
MF Frenkie de Jong, 7 — Getting further forward in recent weeks and is reaping the rewards in the form of goals and assists.
FW Lionel Messi, 7 — Another night where he will be left wondering how he didn’t score. Fernandez made two brilliant saves from him, one from a free-kick and another from close range. Even so, on his 750th Barca appearance, he still managed to set up the winner for De Jong for his 200th career assist.
FW Pedri, 7 — What a season he’s having. Linked well with Messi again and played some really clever passes as Barca looked to break down the home side. Just needs to work on his finishing.
FW Ousmane Dembele, 7 — The Frenchman was a threat throughout the game. Created some good chances, scared the Huesca defenders when he ran with the ball but, like Pedri, wasted his best chances.
FW Martin Braithwaite, 5 — Tasked with leading the line and worked hard but saw hardly any of the ball against a deep defending Huesca side.
MF Miralem Pjanic, 5 — Shot over after good work from Pedri when you would expect him to hit the target.
DF Oscar Mingueza, 5 — Came on for Dest for the final 20 minutes but wasn’t really involved.
FW Antoine Griezmann, N/R — Replaced Braithwaite for the final 10 minutes.