Robert Lewandowski scored twice as Barcelona needed to come back and beat Deportivo Alaves 2-1.
If Barcelona supporters were looking for a response following the 1-0 Champions League loss to Shakhtar Donestk, they were left desperately wanting.
The Catalan side kicked-off the game and almost immediately were down a goal. Ilkay Gundogan lost the ball in his half, which ended up with Samu converting through the legs of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
The rest of the first half played out similar to the Shakhtar match.
Alaves were the better team and Samu could have had a hat-trick before the break but missed a couple of opportunities. He was causing Jules Kounde so many problems that Xavi Hernandez ended up switching the Frenchman and Ronald Araujo, with the Uruguayan now playing in the middle of defense.
The display was so abysmal, Barcelona were whistled and booed at the break.
To the team’s credit, they did come out of the second half with more intensity and pinned Alaves back, looking for an equalizer.
It wouldn’t take long as Lewandowski scored his first in the 53rd minute. Lewandowski connected with a cross from Kounde and guided his header past the keeper. Credit to Xavi Hernandez as Kounde might not have been in that position to make that cross had he not switched him and Araujo.
The winning goal took a bit longer to arrive but it was a huge sigh of relief from almost everyone inside the Montjuic Stadium.
Iñigo Martinez played a ball to Ferran Torres, who entered as a substitute, on the outside of the defender. Torres got to the ball first inside the penalty area and was clipped by the defender, resulting in a penalty. Lewandowski stepped up and converted the penalty, giving Barcelona the lead.
There were a couple more harrowing moments for Barcelona as Alaves threatened late.
But the Catalans managed to hang on to pull out the 2-1 win and keep pace with Girona and Real Madrid.
The win, however, does little to paper over the cracks.
Performance-wise, Barcelona are far from the team people expect to see and the team Xavi has constantly said he wants them to be.
The opening goal by Alaves wasn’t the first time Barcelona conceded almost straight off the whistle. The lapses in concentration and poor pressing was once again on display. The quality Barcelona possess is what propelled them this time around. But they cannot always count on that.
Bottom line: the performances must improve and that starts with Xavi’s gameplan and tactics.
Fortunately for Xavi and his coaching staff, the international break puts a pause in league play, giving them time to make adjustments as they prepare to face Rayo Vallecano. After that, Barcelona face tougher tests against Porto, Atletico Madrid and Girona.