Luuk de Jong scored the only goal of the game as a severely depleted Barcelona edged past Real Mallorca 1-0 in LaLiga on Sunday.
Xavi described the decision to force the Blaugrana to play as “crazy” after they were hit with a spate of COVID-19 cases during the mid-season break, but his makeshift side coped admirably against Luis Garcia’s men.
De Jong – who had already hit the woodwork twice – headed in his second league goal of the campaign in the 44th minute to seal just a second win in Barca’s last six games across all competitions.
The result moved the Catalan giants up to fifth – one point behind fourth-placed Atletico Madrid – while Mallorca remained in 15th.
H A P P Y N E W Y E A R ! pic.twitter.com/tv6ShIkI5y
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 2, 2022
Barca looked more lively than their hosts in the early stages and went close through Gerard Pique’s free-kick and Ferran Jutgla’s whipped strike.
De Jong twice went agonisingly close to opening the scoring moments before the half-hour mark, first poking against the post from Ilias Chakkour’s pass and then crashing a spectacular bicycle kick off Manolo Reina’s crossbar.
The striker was not to be denied shortly before the interval, though, rising highest at the back post to head home Oscar Mingueza’s cross and give Barca a deserved half-time lead.
Barca continued to do much of the pressing after the break, with Pique and De Jong going close to grabbing a second.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen superbly kept out Jaume Costa’s stoppage-time volley as Xavi’s side held on to claim a 12th win in their last 13 away LaLiga games against Mallorca.
What does it mean? Youthful Barca continue fine run against hosts
Despite a starting XI with an average age of 24 years and 201 days – their third youngest since at least the 2005-06 season – Barca put in a mature, dominant performance to seal an eighth consecutive LaLiga win against Mallorca.
They enjoyed a whopping 64.7 per cent possession in a win that meant they have not lost their first game of the calendar year for the past seven seasons.
De Jong signing off in style
De Jong’s loan from Sevilla is expected to the terminated this month, but the Netherlands striker is certainly going out with a bang. His header sealed all three points, while he was denied two more by the frame of the goal, becoming the first Barca player other than Lionel Messi to hit the woodwork twice in a single LaLiga game since August 2019.
Chakkour outshines Jutgla
Jutgla toiled in attack for the visitors, taking a single shot and failing to play a key pass. In contrast, Chakkour – playing on the other side of De Jong – had two shots and played a joint team-high three key passes.
Key Opta Facts
– Barcelona committed 24 fouls in this game, their highest tally in a single LaLiga match since November 2008 against Malaga at La Rosaleda (24), with Pep Guardiola on the bench.
– Luuk de Jong has scored eight headed goals between Barcelona (one) and Sevilla (seven) in all competitions, a record surpassed only by Karim Benzema (13), Ante Budimir (11) and Youssef En-Nesyri (nine) among LaLiga players in all competitions since the 2019-20 season.
– Barcelona kept a clean sheet in a LaLiga away game for the first time since September 2021 against Cadiz (0-0), ending their worst run conceding away from home in the competition (six games) since March 2013 (eight).
– Barcelona have scored the most headed goals of any side in LaLiga this season with seven. They have already scored the same number of headed goals in 19 league games this campaign as they did in the whole of last season (seven in 38).
Both sides are in Copa del Rey action on Wednesday, with Barca travelling to Linares Deportivo and Mallorca visiting Eibar.
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