Vitoria, Spain, Jan 23 (EFE).- Frenkie de Jong pulled Barcelona’s fat out of the fire in the 87th minute at Mendizorroza Stadium in Vitoria, Spain, in the team’s road match against an Alaves that gave the Catalan squad many headaches and only seemed to open up in the second half, when both teams started creating chances, all of which came to nought until just before the final whistle.
With the win, Barcelona moved into one of the Champions League spots, while Alaves remains stuck in the relegation zone.
De Jong took advantage of a pass by Ferran Torres to beat Fernando Pacheco and upend the match in favor of Barcelona just when it seemed that the contest would end up in a scoreless and unsatisfying draw.
Barcelona stuck with its planned script, making the initial sallies into their rivals’ area, but failing to connect on anything.
The first serious try was made by Luuk de Jong 13 minutes into the action with a play after a pass by Pedri Gonzalez that he just could not get into the net.
Barca – who controlled the ball for an incredible 76 percent of the match – started taking risks amid the pressure brought to bear by a dynamic Alaves, and the hosts continued to put the screws to the Catalans, who were unable to accomplish much of anything for a solid half hour during which Alaves never managed to get down toward the target goal and limited itself to waiting for the visitors to make a mistake.
The first half ended with a flurry of activity when Luis Rioja passed to Pere Pons in a counterattack, but he wasn’t able to hit the twine, the ball being trapped without difficulty by Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Barca came out with a little more gusto after the break and staged an ongoing threat to the home team’s net, but still wasn’t able to create anything resembling a goal, yet the game finally opened up and the two teams were able to get into each other’s area without difficulty but still without getting anything on the board.
Just when it seemed that the duel would wind down into a tie, Frenkie de Jong converted Ferran Torres’s cross into the winning tally.
Alaves has one last chance in stoppage time to eke out a draw, but a last-ditch shot was trapped by Ter Stegen.
During the contest, the referee booted Alaves coach Jose Luis Mendilibar with a red card in the 91st minute.
The win puts Barcelona in fifth place, albeit with 35 points to Real Madrid’s 50, and the Catalan squad will host fourth-place Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou next weekend.
Alaves: Pacheco; Martin, Laguardia, Lejeune, Javi Lopez; Jason, Pina (Moya, min.87), Escalante, Pons (Miguel, min.71), Rioja (Edgar, min.90); and Joselu.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Dest, Pique, Araujo, Jordi Alba; Sergio Busquet, Pedri (Lenglet, min.90), F. De Jong; Abde (Nico, min.71), Ferran Torres and Luuk de Jong (Jutgla, min.84).