A disputable second-half goal from Luis Suarez helped Barcelona earn a troublesome 3-1 win over Leganes on Sunday night at the Camp Nou in Barcelona.
Lionel Messi's absence from the starting XI made for powerful sledding, but Ousmane Dembele would rise to the fore and deliver a very sensible performance, which including the opening goal for the hosts.
However things went south for Barcelona to begin the last half when Leganes hit back with an equaliser and Dembele had to go away with an injury. but Messi's entrance for the final half-hour swung things back in Barcelona's favour, with Suarez's controversial winner the difference and Messi adding a late score in stoppage time.
Much of the talk will be regarding Suarez's clash with Leganes goalkeeper Pichu Cuellar on the deciding goal, with the visitors claiming there was a foul from the Uruguayan on the play, but the play of Dembele prior to his injury and conjointly Carles Alena are worthy as mention, in particular for the latter who had his best display in a Barcelona first team shirt.
Manager Ernesto Valverde's decision to rest his Argentine superstar in anticipation of the midweek Copa clash with Sevilla made the pre-match headlines. There was conjointly a return from injury for Thomas Vermaelen to the Barcelona back-line, while youngster Alena got the nod in centre.
The Leganes defence was frustrating Barcelona to begin. Manager Mauricio Pellegrino had his men set up in a compact, tight five-man back-line and a four-man centre that sagged when required and caused plenty of congestion in Barcelona's intricate passing lanes.
It took a counter for Barcelona to unlock the Leganes defence, starting with Gerard Pique doing exceptionally well to leave a quartet of Leganes players in his wake. it'd then finish with a one-two combination between Dembele and Jordi Alba in which the Frenchman polished it off by banking in a shot off the post and in for a 1-0 lead.
Last September's 2-1 loss On Leganes' home soil was enough proof to convince Barcelona that they might not rest with a 1-0 advantage, and the Catalonians pushed arduous for a second as things drifted into the second-half.
But the ghosts of butarque would surface early in the second stanza, as a long ball down the right flank was run onto by Youssef En-Nesyri and the cross from the right was met perfectly by the cutting Martin Braithwaite to stun the Camp Nou with a 1-1 equaliser.
The goal gave Leganes all of the momentum, so Valverde looked to wrestle back control with Messi and Ivan Rakitic coming on for Alena and Arthur, respectively. more misfortune was to come though, as a slip on the turf made Dembele crumple to the bottom and Malcom was quickly called on to replace the Frenchman.
Messi would not wait long to make his presence felt and after a nifty move to his left the Pulga sent a left-footer goalward that forced a soaring save from Pichu Cuellar.
The resulting deflection hung in the air, and Suarez swooped in to get his boot on the ball right at Cuellar was reaching to slap it away. Even before the ball hit the rear of the net, Leganes were howling for a foul on the Uruguayan, however referee de Burgos Bengoetxea and then var ruled that the goal was legal and Barcelona had themselves a 2-1 lead.
Leganes weren't about to go down without a fight and some late possibilities made for a nervy finale for the home fans, however Messi would remedy that by finishing off a one-two combination with Jordi Alba to round out the 3-1 scoreline.
3.- Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Pique, Vermaelen, Jordi Alba; Busquets, Arthur (Rakitic, min. 64), Alena (Messi, min. 64); Dembele (Malcom, min. 69), Suarez, Coutinho.
.- Leganes: Cuellar; Nyom, Tarin, Omeruo, Siovas, Silva; Recio, Vesga (El Zhar, min. 87), oscar (Eraso, min. 88); En-Nesyri, Braithwaite (Santos, min. 78).
Goals: 1-0, min. 31: Dembele; 1-1, min. 58: Braithwaite; 2-1, min. 71: Suarez; 3-1, min. 92: Messi
Referee de Burgos Bengoetxea (Basque). Yellow Cards: Braithwaite (Min. 8) for Leganes, Busquets (Min. 11) for Barcelona, Tarin (Min. 23) for Leganes, Alena (Min. 54) for Barcelona, Sergio Roberto (Min. 60) for Barcelona
Red cards: None
Stadium: Camp Nou