Ansu Fati has marked his first start in almost a year by scoring one goal and creating another as Barcelona came from behind to beat Valencia 3-1 in La Liga.
The Catalan giants had won just three of their opening seven league games before the visit of Los Che and more disappointment looked a real possibility when Jose Gaya powered Jose Bordalas’ side ahead early on.
Fati, whose return from a long-term knee injury had been limited to substitute appearances before the international break, marked his first start since November 7 with a superb equaliser, while Mepmhis Depay put them in front from the penalty spot before the interval.
Substitute Philippe Coutinho gave the scoreline a healthier look five minutes from fulltime as Barca, who handed former Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero a late debut off the bench, sealed victory.
The result moved Ronald Koeman’s side up to seventh on 15 points, five behind league leaders Real Sociedad but with a game in hand.
“It was really important to get the win. It’s a key week for us in the season and we’ve started it well,” midfielder Frenkie de Jong said.
“We need to build our confidence, which is really important for the team.”
“It’s always tough when you concede early on but we bounced back well, playing with intensity and our attitude was first class.”
Despite being allowed a full capacity crowd for the first time since March 2020, the Nou Camps was only half full – and those in attendance were silenced after five minutes as Jose Gaya’s long-range strike swerved into the far corner past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Barca responded well and Fati levelled after 13 minutes with a wonderful curled finished from the edge of the box.
The youngster was then felled inside the box by Gaya four minutes before the break and Depay stepped up to net from the spot.
Carlos Soller hit the woodwork after the break as Valencia pushed for an equaliser and Guedes forced Ter Stegen into a smart stop at his near post as the visitors ramped up the pressure.
The hosts held firm, however, and were able to secure all three points when substitute Philippe Coutinho fired in from close range five minutes from the end following tenacious work from Sergino Dest.
Elsewhere, Rafa Mir’s second-half strike secured a 1-0 win for third-placed Sevilla at lowly Celta Vigo.
Ezequiel Avila scored with four minutes left as Osasuna won 2-1 at Villarreal to go fifth, a spot ahead of Rayo Vallecano who defeated Elche by the same score.