Barcelona overcame an early stumble, as goals from Ansu Fati, Memphis Depay and Philippe Coutinho saw them vanquish Valencia 3-1 on Sunday night at the Camp Nou in La Liga.
Jose Gaya gave the guests a dream start with a sizzling strike, but Fati answered in kind and this was then followed by a Memphis penalty conversion and a late Coutinho score to earn Barcelona a badly needed three points.
Ronald Koeman reverted back to a defensive four, with Jordi Alba returning at left-back, while Sergi Roberto was pushed forward into midfield. Meanwhile, Fati received his first start since returning from injury.
Valencia have historically been a complicated opponent for Barcelona in matches at the Camp Nou, and they showed just why early on as Gaya struck to give Los Che a lead. A ball was initially cleared out of the Barcelona area, but it fell perfectly for Gaya to latch onto and send a swerving torpedo past Marc-Andre ter Stegen for the goal.
It was a nightmare beginning for Koeman, but 18-year-old Fati would soon calm the nerves inside the Camp Nou with a nice one-two combination with Memphis that ended with an inch-perfect strike from the youngster to make it 1-1.
Barcelona continued to push and Fati would play a vital role in the home side’s second, drawing a foul in front of goal, resulting in a penalty kick that was converted with aplomb by Memphis to give Barcelona a 2-1 advantage going into the break.
Valencia were unlucky not to have pulled level early in the second stanza when Carlos Soler unfurled a shot that hit the post and bounced across goal, sparing the Barcelona defence.
Koeman made his first change of the night just shy of the hour mark, removing Fati and giving Coutinho a half-hour run-out, followed later by Nico on for Gavi and Oscar Mingueza replacing Sergi Roberto.
The pace of play slowed in the second half, with Barcelona content to possess the ball and not penetrate too deep into the Valencia half. But it also made for some nervy moments when the visitors were able to counter, including a chance for Soler that forced a block from Ter Stegen.
Barcelona’s patient approach would reap rewards in the late stages and it nailed down the three points, with Sergino Dest turning away from a pair of defenders and crossing for a wide-open Coutinho, who fired home for a 3-1 lead.
There would still be one last notable moment, with Sergio Aguero finally making his Barcelona debut, playing the final few minutes as a substitute for Dest, capping Barcelona’s victorious night.