The sigh of relief from Camp Nou could be heard across the Iberian Peninsula on Sunday as FC Barcelona secured a 3-1 win over Valencia in La Liga Santander. Teenage sensation Ansu Fati compensated, turning the momentum in favor of the hosts.
An overwhelming sense of doom swept over Barcelona’s home ground when Jose Gaya scored for Valencia in just five minutes. The goal once again revealed the weaknesses in Barcelona’s defense when a supposedly cleared ball fell perfectly in front of Gaya. He didn’t hesitate to take the opportunity to shoot past goalkeeper Marc Andre ter Stegen.
It was a dream start for the guests, but Fati saved the home team from being completely demoralized by quickly equalizing eight minutes later. The 18-year-old paired perfectly with summer newcomer Memphis Depay to keep the Blaugrana motivated.
Fati was still involved in the second goal after drawing a penalty that Memphis promptly converted. The penalty enabled the Blaugrana to take the absolute lead a few minutes before the break. Valencia couldn’t regroup in the second half despite a good performance from Carlos Soler, which Ter Stegen needed to act. Substitute Philippe Coutinho sealed the deal with Barcelona’s third goal just five minutes from time.
This was Fati’s first start since returning from a knee injury that left him out for almost a year. It was a worrying situation but the club believed in him enough to hand over the Lionel Messi’s number 10 jersey when the former captain left the club this summer.
Expectations are very high, and after a long time in the recovery room, it’s even more frightening. However, the teenager shows that he is up to the challenge and the club rewards his efforts with the offer of a new long-term contract. Last week it was reported that the club wants to secure its future with a € 1 billion release clause, just like his youth colleague Pedri.
Manager Ronald Koeman will be relieved to finally let Fati get fired from all cylinders. Summer newcomer Sergio Agüero also made his official Barcelona debut in the closing stages of the game and while still entering full competition he is also a welcome addition to the line-up.
Koeman has been under immense pressure lately but the return of several injured players should help turn the tide. A crucial competitive game in the UEFA Champions League is against Dynamo Kyiiv, followed by “El Clasico”. Needless to say, there’s a lot at stake for the club as a whole in the coming weeks and Koeman hopes Fati and the other returning players can make a huge impact.