Ansu oozes confidence in 9/10 showing as 16-year-old leads Barca past Valencia
BARCELONA -- Ansu Fati scored one and assisted on another as the 16-year-old's dream-like start to the season continued in Barcelona's 5-2 win over Valencia on Saturday. There were also two goals for Luis Suarez, who made his comeback from a calf injury in the second half at Camp Nou.
Ansu needed less than two minutes to open the scoring on his full debut for Barca before setting up Frenkie de Jong to double the home side's lead just four minutes later.
Kevin Gameiro pulled one back for Valencia before the break but Barca pulled clear in the second half. Gerard Pique scored the third from close range before two clever Suarez finishes ensured Ernesto Valverde's side moved within two points of early leaders Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga. Maxi Gomez added a stoppage-time consolation for Los Che.
The headline maker was once again Ansu. After debuting against Real Betis and then becoming the club's youngest ever La Liga scorer at Osasuna, Valverde handed him his first start against Valencia. The occasion did not get to him. The forward scored his second goal for the club and then set up De Jong to became the youngest player to both score and assist in a La Liga game in the 21st century, according to Opta.
Beyond the goals, though, it was a really mature performance. He seems to get it. He knows what decision to make and when. Now it's all about managing expectations.
Suarez's cameo will also please Valverde. With Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele still injured, the Uruguayan's timely return to the pitch -- not to mention how sharp he looked -- could be so important ahead of Tuesday's Champions League opener at Borussia Dortmund.
The defence still looks a bit wobbly. Barca have now conceded seven goals in their first four games, matching their worst defensive start to a season since 2000-01 -- before Ansu was even born. With Samuel Umtiti out injured for six weeks, Pique and Clement Lenglet will be tasked with sorting things out.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Valverde's decision to start Ansu was brave and it paid off spectacularly. He also may have found his best midfield for now in the form of De Jong, Sergio Busquets and Arthur Melo.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 6 -- Left exposed by his defence for the two goals and had very little to do other than that.
DF Nelson Semedo, 6 -- Involved in some lovely attacks down the right flank and only the post denied him a brilliant goal.
DF Gerard Pique, 6 -- Got on the scoresheet at one end but has not looked totally convincing at the other yet this season. It's a team thing, more than an individual thing, though. Barca are still seeking the right balance.
DF Clement Lenglet, 6 -- Like Pique, didn't look too exposed all night yet still managed to concede two goals. That hasn't cost Barca against Betis or Valencia at Camp Nou, but could haunt them later in the season when games matter more.
DF Jordi Alba, 6 -- An energetic performance on the left. Seemed to help Ansu settle into the game quickly.
MF Sergio Busquets, 7 -- Not completely at ease with his centre-backs at the moment but a solid display. Good on the ball, read the danger and kept things ticking in the middle.
MF Frenkie de Jong, 8 -- Still adapting to a more advanced role than he was used to at Ajax, but played a big part in the win against Valencia. Set up the first goal, scored the second and was effective in possession before being taken off for a breather.
MF Arthur Melo, 7 -- Made his first start of the season after impressing off the bench at Osasuna. At ease on the ball and looks like he's trying to add more creativity in the final third to his game.
FW Antoine Griezmann, 7 -- Was overshadowed by a 16-year-old (who would have thought that one month ago?), but produced a tidy performance. His speculative shot led to Barca's third goal.
FW Ansu Fati, 9 -- Played less than an hour but that was enough time to score one goal, brilliantly create another, come so close to two more goals, have a penalty appeal turned down and produce a ridiculous sombrero over poor old Daniel Wass's head. The teenager oozed confidence, was comfortable on the ball and used his body well.
FW Luis Suarez, 8 -- Returned from injury as a substitute and needed less than a minute to beat Cillessen with a brilliantly deceptive shot from the edge of the box. Added a second with another well-taken finish in the final 10 minutes.
MF Ivan Rakitic, N/R -- Came on for just his second substitute appearance of the season after a move away failed to materialise in the summer.