Barcelona rallies to beat Valencia 3-1

Madrid: Ansu Fati is quickly becoming Barcelona’s go-to player in the absence of Lionel Messi.
The 18-year-old Fati made his first start for Barcelona after a long injury layoff on Sunday, scoring a goal and earning his team a penalty as the Catalan club halted its losing streak by rallying to beat Valencia 3-1 in the Spanish league.
Memphis Depay and Philippe Coutinho also scored for Barcelona as it moved to seventh place, five points behind leader Real Sociedad and with a game in hand.
Fati returned to action last month after being sidelined for more than 10 months because of a knee injury, coming off the bench in three straight matches before getting his first start on Sunday and giving fans more hope that the club can rebuild around him after Messi’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain. He had already scored a few minutes after entering the game against Levante.
We’ve always said we need players like him, said Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman, who was back on the bench after a suspension of two league matches following a red card for complaining. It was his first start and it was already decided with the doctors that he would only play for about an hour. We don’t want to overwork him in such an important week for us. Barcelona was coming off two defeats before the international break — 2-0 at Atlético Madrid in the league and 3-0 at Benfica in the Champions League. It had won only once in its last six matches in all competitions.
Barcelona has begun a three-game home stint that Koeman called key to getting the team back on track. It will next play a critical Champions League game against Dynamo Kyiv on Wednesday and then the first clásico of the season against Real Madrid.
It was a very important win, we are in a key week in the season, Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong said. We started it well by earning points and gaining confidence, that’s very important for the club right now. The loss extended Valencia’s winless streak to five matches. It dropped to ninth place in the league.

NT Bureau