Dembélé goal keeps Barcelona’s LaLiga lead

Barcelona headed to the Spanish capital on Sunday evening with an 11-point lead over Atletico Madrid. The fixture represents arguably the biggest contest on Matchday 16 of LaLiga, and Diego Simeone’s side were desperate to clinch a result against the current table-toppers.

Simeone made four changes to the side that he started against Real Oviedo in the Copa del Rey, with Savic, Reinildo, Barrios and Félix returning to the starting eleven in place of Witsel, Lemar, Morata and Mario Hermoso. Xavi also implemented a handful of changes – Jordi Alba and Robert Lewandowski are both suspended, so Baldé and Dembélé are introduced as their replacements. Koundé, Araujo and Busquets also return to the lineup, as Alonso, Sergi Roberto and Raphinha are dropped to the bench.

Atletico Starting XI: Oblak; Reinildo, Giménez, Savic, Molina; Carrasco, Barrios, Koke (C), Llorente; Félix, Griezmann

Barcelona Starting XI: Ter Stegen; Baldé, Christensen, Araujo, Koundé; De Jong, Busquets (C), Gavi; Pedri, Fati, Dembélé

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Xavi’s Barcelona side started well, with Gavi sending a through ball through towards goal in the opening minutes – but a deflection sent it towards De Jong, who then switched the play to Dembélé on the right flank. Reinildo was able to clear the danger after a poor touch forced the French winger wider than he would have liked. Atletico were under pressure once again soon after, with Pedri finding Ansu Fati’s forward run. The forward unleashed a shot, but Stefan Savic was able to slide in and intercept.

Barcelona were doing an excellent job of keeping the hosts within their own half, and the Culers were beginning to launch yet another attack. The Catalan club were let down by their own poor passing, which became sloppy and was easily intercepted by Simeone’s team.

A cross from Félix found Llorente on the right wing, and the Spaniard progressed further down the flank before firing a low cross into the area. Carrasco was unable to reach it, but the hosts came away with a corner after Ronald Araujo sent the ball out.

Barcelona opened the scoring at the Cívitas Metropolitano in the 22nd minute through Ousmane Dembélé, who fired a fabulous first time finish into the far corner of Oblak’s net. The move started with a sensational run through midfield from Pedri, who found Gavi on the edge of the area. Gavi worked his way past Reinildo, before laying the ball off to Dembélé who slotted home to finish off a brilliant team move. Despite calls for a foul in the buildup, the ref was more than happy to let the goal stand – feeling that Reinildo’s reaction to a slight nudge from Gavi was over the top.

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The Catalan outfit had an opportunity to find a second in quick succession, with Gavi finding Pedri, who had timed his run to perfection but undue hesitation allowed Molina to track back and block his effort on goal.

Atletico’s best chance to equalise came through Giménez, who was able to connect with Llorente’s cross into the area after a recycled corner from Carrasco. The Uruguayan defender’s header was directed marginally wide of the goal, and he’ll feel disappointed to have not got his effort on target.

The visitors were becoming rather careless in possession, leading to Llorente winning the ball back on the half-way line. The midfielder’s run down the right wing was capped off with a strike, but his effort was sent wide and the Spaniard will be wishing he had looked for a teammate instead.

Carrasco presented the hosts with another opportunity just before the interval, after cutting inside from the right wing. The Belgian international looked for Félix in the centre of the area, who then played in Griezmann. Ter Stegen was called into action in order to prevent the Portuguese forward’s effort nestling into the top corner, and the Barca keeper was able to tip the strike over the bar.

It appeared to be a completely different game after the break, with Atletico pinning Barcelona into their own half. Antoine Griezmann’s cross from the left gave the hosts a chance to level the scoring, but he was unable to pick out a teammate in the box and the opportunity fizzled away rather quickly.

Molina was the next player to find a breakthrough for Simeone’s side, with the right-back’s surging run forward resulting in a low cross into the box. Griezmann was able to out-muscle Christensen, but the Frenchman’s shot was blazed high over the bar and posed no threat to Oblak between the sticks.

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Barcelona soon returned to their first-half form, and kept the hosts inside their half. Jules Koundé lifted a long chipped ball over the top to Dembélé – in a move we wouldn’t usually expect to see from Barcelona – but Reinildo was once again able to track back and deflect the winger’s shot wide of the post.

Llorente launched a low driven shot towards Ter Stegen, with the German ‘keeper fumbling the save somewhat – but he was able to recover and prevent Morata from powering the rebound into the net. It was Kondogbia who’d started the move, after dispossessing Franck Kessie in midfield.

Barca thought they’d doubled their lead when Torres volleyed a fine finish past Oblak – but the Spanish forward was clearly offside and the linesman promptly raised his flag. It was a well-worked move, though, with Gavi’s corner directed towards Torres with a touch from Christensen at the far post.

Six minutes of stoppage time saw each side pick up a red card – with Stefan Savic dismissed after grabbing Torres by the neck while the forward was on the floor. Torres was also sent off for instigating the incident, having rugby tackled Savic and dragging the Atletico defender by his hair.

Atletico thought they’d snatched an equaliser in the closing minutes, as Griezmann volleyed Correa’s pass towards the goalmouth. Ronaldo Araujo was in the perfect location for the visitors, clearing the ball off the line while marking Alvaro Morata.

Barcelona remain top of LaLiga with a three point lead over Real Madrid – while Atletico drop down to the Europa League spots and sit in fifth place, level on points with Villarreal. Barcelona’s next LaLiga fixture will see them welcome Getafe to the Nou Camp, while Atletico travel to Almeria.


  1. La Liga is the tournament that I like the most.

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