Barcelona inch closer to La Liga’s top four as Frenkie de Jong scores lone goal in win vs. Huesca

Barcelona got back to winning in La Liga on Sunday as the Blaugrana earned 1-0 victory against Huesca in Estadio El Alcoraz. Barcelona were coming off a 1-1 draw at home against Eibar, a disappointing result considering Eibar’s table position, but Barcelona bounced back in the new year.

Manager Ronald Koeman rolled his team out in a four back for the new year, opting to start Sergio Busquets and Ousmane Dembélé, and moving Miralem Pjanić and Óscar Mingueza to the bench. Lionel Messi also made his return to the lineup after being held out last match as precaution with an ankle injury. The adjustments had an immediate impact as the visiting Barca were on the front foot the entire first 45 minutes.

It was a promising start for the Catalonians as they nearly broke through the scoring within the first 10 minutes with opportunities in front of goal from Pedri and a volley attempt from Messi. Huesca would struggle mightily throughout, having zero answers to sustain an attacking Barcelona, which would dominate the left side led by Messi.  

The breakthrough would finally happen for Barca with a goal in the 27th minute as Messi and Frenkie de Jong linked up for the opening goal. A cunning Messi was able to spot out a drifting de Jong into the box, and as the Argentinian lofted the ball into the box, de Jong continued his run and was able to execute a leaping volley for the goal. 

Despite the constant pressure and looks on goal, Barca struggled to get a second goal, including a near free-kick goal from Messi that was denied by Álvaro Fernández just ahead of halftime.

De Jong’s goal would be the lone goal from Barcelona in a dominant first half, as Huesca failed to generate anything on the field against the visitors. The hosts fielded zero shots or attempts on target compared to Barca’s 13 shots and four attempts on goal. The zero looks in front of goal outweighed by the Catalonian’s lopsided ball possession with 73% compared to Huesca’s 27%.

Second-half shift

The Blaugrana’s midfield continued to retain possession and connect with the top line, but found struggles of their own finishing in front of goal. 

Despite Ousmane Dembele getting a good look on goal early in the second half after being fed through from Clement Lenglet, Huesca would wake up a bit and finally force a save from Marc-Andre Ter Stegen off a chaotic corner. Dembele and Barcelona would continue to work hard to produce a goal, but Fernandez kept things close throughout.

Notable Performances

Frenkie de Jong, Barcelona: The Dutch midfielder has been consistent in his play for the Catalonians over the last several weeks and had another big day for Barcelona, covering all sorts of ground against Huesca and scoring the lone goal for the team. Rating: 8

Alvaro Fernandez, Huesca: A valiant effort in between the pipes for the home side today. Was tested early in the first half but did well to try and keep his team in the game and the back line organized. Came up with huge saves throughout the match, including a big free kick save on Messi ahead of halftime. Rating: 7

Looking ahead

The 1-0 win means Barcelona is slightly closer to breaking through the top four but still sits outside in the league table in fifth place with 28 points. The Catalonians will have a chance to keep chasing a top-four spot next week as they get set to face Athletic Club Bilbao on Wednesday.

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