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2-min read

Dembele Shines as Barcelona Move Back to the Top of La Liga.

Ousmane Dembele took another step on the road to redemption as Barcelona eased past Villarreal on Sunday to move back to the top of La Liga.

AFP

Updated:December 3, 2018, 1:48 AM IST
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Dembele Shines as Barcelona Move Back to the Top of La Liga.
(Image credit: Reuters)

Ousmane Dembele took another step on the road to redemption as Barcelona eased past Villarreal on Sunday to move back to the top of La Liga.

Dembele, dropped last month by coach Ernesto Valverde, was making his second consecutive start and repaid the faith by teeing up Gerard Pique's opening goal in a comfortable 2-0 win at the Camp Nou.

Carles Alena, the 20-year-old Spaniard also regarded as a future star, came off the bench to add a late flourish, chipping in his first La Liga goal and Barca's second after a defence-splitting pass from Lionel Messi.

A narrow victory puts Barca back at the top of the table, two points above Sevilla, who can reclaim their place at the summit with a win away to Alaves later on Sunday night.

It also extends Barcelona's lead over Atletico Madrid, who were held earlier in the day to a 1-1 draw by Girona.

Villarreal, meanwhile, stay 17th, three points above the relegation zone, with the pressure mounting on coach Javier Calleja, who has only overseen one league win since September.

Alena, a dainty attacking midfielder with 13 years training in Barca's academy, is likely to enjoy many more celebrations in front of the club's fans but for Dembele, the sense was time had been running out.

Valverde's patience with the 21-year-old appeared to be wearing thin when he was left out against Real Betis three weemadrids ago but a late equaliser against Atletico Madrid earned a reprieve and this was another encouraging performance.

Heartening too for Valverde will have been the clean sheet, Barcelona's first in the league since the second game of the season in August.

Messi and Dembele terrorised the Villarreal defence early on but it was the visitors that went closest as Gerard Moreno wriggled through both Pique and Clement Lenglet before firing against the post.

Dembele's shot might have gone in had it not been blocked by Santiago Caseres before the Frenchman turned provider, picking out Pique with a perfectly judged cross. Pique held off Victor Ruiz, perhaps even too vigorously, and headed in.

Messi had a shot saved from a Jordi Alba cut-back and then was denied again when his fizzing cross looked destined for the far corner.

Villarreal, however, remained in touch, literally, as Pique was lucky to escape a harsher punishment when he threw a hand into Moreno's face. When Moreno was substituted he made sure to mutter towards Pique before he departed.

Barca finally put the result beyond doubt as Messi's brilliant pass from deep freed Alena, who chipped Sergio Asenjo like he had scored dozens of goals like this rather than just his first.

 

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| Edited by: Hardik Worah
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