Fati returns in Messi shirt to help Barca cruise past Levante

Published September 28, 2021
BARCELONA: Barcelona’s Ansu Fati (C) celebrates with team-mates after scoring during their La Liga match against Levante at the Camp Nou.—Reuters
BARCELONA: Barcelona’s Ansu Fati (C) celebrates with team-mates after scoring during their La Liga match against Levante at the Camp Nou.—Reuters

MADRID: Wearing the No. 10 jersey that used to belong to Lionel Messi, Ansu Fati made a triumphant return from a long injury layoff on Sunday, scoring a goal and giving Barcelona fans hope for the future.

Fati, who hadn’t played in more than 10 months because of a knee injury, scored in stoppage time to seal a 3-0 La Liga win over Levante that helped ease some of the pressure on Barcelona following a three-match winless streak.

The 18-year-old Fati was loudly cheered by the crowd at the Camp Nou Stadium when he entered the match in the 81st minute, then profusely celebrated after scoring with a low shot from outside the area.

He has been one of Barcelonas most promising stars and is seen by many as a player who can help the Catalan club overcome Messi’s painful departure to Paris St Germain.

“I’m proud to be able to wear this number after Leo did,” Fati said. “I’m thankful for the club and for the team captains to have given me this opportunity. It’s not a pressure for me. I’m just grateful for being able to wear this number that gave so much for the club.”

Memphis Depay and Luuk de Jong had each scored in the first 15 minutes of the match to put Barca on their way to their first victory since the demoralising 3-0 home loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League two weeks ago.

The team had been in turmoil since then, with coach Ronald Koeman under pressure and at odds with club president Joan Laporta and even some of his players for saying that the club would not realistically fight for titles this season.

“We are Barcelona, we will always try to win everything,” Fati said. “We will fight for the league, for the Champions League and for all the competitions we are in.”

Having been held to frustrating draws by lowly opposition in their last two league games, Barca were quick out of the blocks and went ahead after six minutes as Depay converted a penalty.

They doubled their advantage just before the quarter-hour as De Jong latched on to a Sergino Dest through ball before finishing past Aitor Fernandez in the visitors’ goal.

Levante rarely looked like troubling Ronald Koeman’s side, who are low on confidence, and they were indebted to Fernandez, who made a couple of smart stops to keep the scoreline respectable as a dominant Barca pushed on in search a third.

It finally came in the 91st minute as Fati capped his comeback appearance with a wonderful strike from distance.

The victory moved the Catalans up to sixth in the table with 12 points from six games, five behind league leaders Real Madrid, who have played one more.

Real Sociedad climbed to second, a point off the top of the table after they edged past Elche 1-0, thanks to a late goal from captain Mikel Oyarzabal.

Oyarzabal capitalised on a defensive error in the 81st minute to score his fifth goal in seven games this season and put La Real in touching distance of Real.

Colombia veteran Radamel Falcao scored his third goal in his third match since joining promoted Rayo Vallecano, helping his team beat visiting Cadiz 3-1 and sit fifth in the standings.

Seventh-placed Real Betis defeated bottom side Getafe 2-0 with Willian Jose scoring a goal in each half while Javi Martinez scored an 88th-minnute winner as Osasuna beat Mallorca 3-2 for their second win in three matches.

Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2021

Opinion

Intolerance grows
Updated 18 Oct 2021

Intolerance grows

Failure to pass the bill undermines the writ of the state, highlights its inability to guarantee citizens’ protection and freedom.
Moral panic
Updated 18 Oct 2021

Moral panic

If conflation of culture with religion is taken as true, there is mounting evidence that society has gone closer to such roots.
Challenges amid discord
Updated 18 Oct 2021

Challenges amid discord

Institutional disharmony and polarised politics are impeding efforts to address the country’s challenges.
Climate & youth
Updated 17 Oct 2021

Climate & youth

Disillusionment and anxiety are on the rise among youth as they confront the diminishing prospects of a better tomorrow.

Editorial

Financial troubles
Updated 18 Oct 2021

Financial troubles

Growing trade gap is fuelling the current account deficit and bringing the already meagre foreign exchange reserves under stress.
18 Oct 2021

Complaint portal

IN a ruling on Thursday, the Mingora bench of the Peshawar High Court held that the Prime Minister’s Performance...
18 Oct 2021

Capital’s master plan

IT is encouraging that on Thursday, the restructured commission formed by the federal cabinet to revise ...
Carnage in Kandahar
Updated 17 Oct 2021

Carnage in Kandahar

Pakistan’s anti-extremism policy is in many ways half-baked and inconsistent.
17 Oct 2021

Sanctity of contracts

PAKISTAN is facing yet another international dispute before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment...
17 Oct 2021

New sports policy

THIS week, the Pakistan Football Federation Normalisation Committee chief Haroon Malik was in Zurich to hold ...