Barcelona bounce back after El Clasico

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Luis Suarez scored a goal and contributed three assists to ensure that Barcelona beat Alaves 4-1 in their final match of 2019 on Saturday afternoon at the Camp Nou.

Barcelona’s victory against Alaves followed a poor performance and a draw against Real Madrid on Wednesday.

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However, Barcelona looked well on their way to the three points on Saturday after first-half strikes from Antoine Griezmann and Arturo Vidal, but the Basque visitors mounted a charge early in the second half and were a Marc-Andre Ter Stegen toe deflection away from pulling level.

When Barcelona were at their most vulnerable, Lionel Messi came to the rescue and then Suarez capped off his excellent afternoon by converting from the penalty spot, earning Barcelona a much-needed win in light of their shaky performance in midweek in El Clasico.

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde revamped his midfield, handing starts to Sergio Busquets, Arturo Vidal and Carles Alena. That meant Sergi Roberto shifted back to right-back, while Nelson Semedo, Frenkie de Jong and Ivan Rakitic were all rested on the bench.

There was also a start for Samuel Umtiti ahead of Clement Lenglet at center-back, too.

Barcelona came flying out of the gates and an opening goal was just a matter of time. It came before the quarter-hour mark, when Suarez crossed from the right and it met the sweeping right foot of Griezmann, who fired in for a 1-0 lead. Later on in the half, it should have been two when Barcelona mounted a breath-taking counterattack which was spearheaded by Griezmann and Messi, with the latter taking a backheel from the former and shooting across goal. Gerard Pique opted to watch it roll wide, instead of pushing the ball into the net.

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Much of the push coming from Barcelona’s attack was down to Vidal, who provided another scoring option in the box, and the Chilean’s forays forward paid dividends right before half-time when he was found by Suarez on the right-wing and hammered a shot home to double the advantage to 2-0.

With the two-goal lead, Barcelona went to sleep and it cost them dearly in the second half as Alaves pulled a goal back. It started with a giveaway at midfield and it ended with Ruben Duarte floating in a cross that the charging Pere Pons smacked into net with a fierce header to make it a 2-1 contest.

A horrific back-pass almost gifted a second to the Basques in as many minutes and only the slightest toe deflection from Ter Stegen playing way off his line prevented the shock equaliser. Smelling blood in the water, Alaves began to press Barcelona playing out of their half and had the Camp Nou on edge. But just when things were at their nerviest, Messi put out the fire when he collected a pass from Suarez and, surrounded by a sea of Alaves shirts, rocketed in a left-footer into the top left corner of the net to restore Barcelona’s two-goal advantage at 3-1.

VAR would enter the fray shortly thereafter when a Suarez header struck the back of Martin Aguirregabiria’s arm, sending the ball over the crossbar. Referee Mario Melero Lopez went to check the video monitor and almost immediately pointed to the spot.

Normally Messi handles penalty-taking duties for Barcelona, but in this instance, it was Suarez and the Uruguayan left no doubt with his attempt, firing into net for a 4-1 Barcelona lead.

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Outside of a late chance from Manu Garcia, Ter Stegen and the Barcelona defence were relatively untroubled for the final quarter-hour to nail down the victory and send Barcelona into the holidays on a high note.

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