Sports News

Player ratings as Gundogan penalty rescues late win


A sluggish Barcelona started 2024 with a win on Thursday night when Ilkay Gundogan’s 93rd minute penalty decided a hard fought game against Las Palmas in La Liga.

Ex-Barca forward Munir El Haddadi gave the islanders a dream start in the early stages of the game and they had the upper hand until Ferran Torres snatched a fortuitous equaliser early in the second half. The visitors from Catalonia didn’t look they would have it in them to get the win until Gundogan was denied a clear goalscoring opportunity and then converted the subsequent penalty.

Vitor Roque made his Barcelona debut following a €61m transfer from Athletico Paranaense but squandered a glorious chance to make it a dream start with a goal.

The result ensures that Barca, third in the table, just about keep Real Madrid and Girona in their sights after both teams had won their respective fixtures 24 hours earlier. The gap to them is seven points.

How the game unfolded

Barca were forced into an early defensive reshuffle due to an injury to Joao Cancelo in the opening stages. It resulted in Jules Kounde shifting to right-back and Andreas Christensen coming on to plug the gap in the centre. Yet Xavi’s side were caught cold only moments later when Las Palmas worked the ball out wide to Sandro Ramirez, whose teasing low ball was met in the box by Munir.

The Catalans had more of the ball, albeit not dramatically more, but all of the best chances were going the way of Las Palmas. Against his former club, Sandro forced Inaki Pena into a save low at the near post after a darting run behind the defence. Later in the first half, Pena’s palms were stung by Javier Munoz’s dipping drive, with Sandro also immediately striking the post via a deflection.

By half-time, Barca had bizarrely failed to muster a single shot and the largely anonymous front-three might as well have stayed at home. Behind them, the midfield wasn’t doing enough with the ball.

Thankfully for Xavi, there was more about his team when the game restarted after the interval. Raphinha in particular began to look sharp, firing Barca’s first shot of the clash just over. The same player soon hit the post, albeit from an offside position, before Torres drew the visitors level in undeniably scrappy fashion. Robert Lewandowski had hardly touched the ball, yet he played a huge if unorthodox role in the equaliser when an attempted clearance hit him and kept things alive just long enough for Torres to poke a low finish into the net from around 15 yards out.

The equaliser marked a shift in the momentum that had largely been with the hosts, although Las Palmas could have gone back in front at a corner when Mika Marmol only just missed the target with a header. The same player, who had generally been excellent at the back, then almost gifted Roque a dream debut at the other end with a short back pass that goalkeeper Alvaro Valles just smothered.

The breakthrough that didn’t seem likely eventually came for Barca when Joao Felix’s shot was parried by Valles and Gundogan looked destined to nod in the rebound until a push from Daley Sinkgraven knocked him off balance. Las Palmas protested, but the Dutchman was sent off and Gundogan kept his cool, despite the attempts at gamesmanship, to win the game.

There was still time for Barca to get a third but Roque somehow fired wide with the goal gaping.

Robert Lewandowski

Robert Lewandowski didn’t have a fruitful night / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

GK: Inaki Pena – 5/10 – Not brave enough in dealing with the danger for Las Palmas’ goal.

RB: Joao Cancelo – N/A – Lasted only a few minutes due to injury.

CB: Ronald Araujo – 5/10 – Sluggish as Munir got between the Barca centre-backs to score.

CB: Jules Kounde – 6/10 – Had to switch to right-back because of the early change.

LB: Alejandro Balde – 5/10 – Lacked quality in forward positions.

CM: Sergi Roberto (c) – 6/10 – Booked for dissent in the first half when a decision didn’t go his way. Much improved in the second half but it wasn’t a high bar to try and clear after a poor opening 45.

CM: Frenkie de Jong – 7/10 – Exceptional at winning the ball back and sweeping up in the middle, which was potentially key in nullifying even more Las Palmas damage.

CM: Ilkay Gundogan – 7/10 – Didn’t do enough with the ball for 92 minutes, but then decided the game by winning the penalty and keeping his cool to convert it.

RW: Raphinha – 6/10 – Kickstarted Barca’s attacking flow after the break.

ST: Robert Lewandowski – 4/10 – Inadvertently helped with the equaliser but otherwise quiet.

LW: Ferran Torres – 6/10 – Netted in rather opportunistic fashion.

Substitutes

SUB: Andreas Christensen (11′ for Cancelo) – 5/10

SUB: Lamine Yamal (72′ Raphinha) – 5/10

SUB: Joao Felix (72′ for Lewandowski) – 6/10

SUB: Vitor Roque (78′ for Torres) – 6/10

SUB: Fermin Lopez (78′ for Roberto) – 6/10

Subs not used: Kochen (GK), Astralaga (GK), Cubarsi, Fort, Romeu

Manager

Xavi – 5/10 – Will be disappointed with the lack of energy or attacking impetus in the first half. There was improvement after half-time but that could be down to Las Palmas fatigue as much as anything.

Player of the match – Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona)

READ THE LATEST LA LIGA NEWS, RUMOURS & GOSSIP



Source link