A brilliant Memphis Depay goal wasn’t enough to earn Barcelona three points on Saturday as they began life without Ronald Koeman with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Alaves in front of less than 40,000 fans at Camp Nou.
Memphis opened the scoring for Barca — who were coached by interim boss Sergi Barjuan as the search for a new manager goes on — just after the break, cutting inside before firing into the top corner from 20 yards.
The stand-out performers for Barca were three of the youngest players on the pitch. Midfielders Gavi and Nico Gonzalez were brilliant, while central defender Eric Garcia also produced an assured performance.
The dismissal of Koeman in midweek will not cure all of Barca’s ills immediately. The issues at the club run deeper than just the coach, while the finishing here was once again sloppy. Memphis took his goal wonderfully, but he missed chances to win the game late on.
There was also more bad news on the injury front, with neither Sergio Aguero nor Gerard Pique able to finish the game. Already missing the fixture with fitness problems were Ronald Araujo, Sergi Roberto, Frenkie de Jong, Pedri, Ansu Fati, Ousmane Dembele and Martin Braithwaite.
Manager ratings out of 10
5 — Barjuan’s plan was clear: 4-3-3 with Memphis and Sergino Dest supplying as much width as possible. Barca did start well, but they soon fizzled out. Philippe Coutinho replacing Aguero took the sting out of the attack.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 6 — Once again conceded with the first shot on target against Barca of the game, although once again was not to blame.
DF Oscar Mingueza, 6 — Weak in a couple of challenges but was fairly solid. Could have attacked more against an Alaves side sitting deep.
DF Gerard Pique, 5 — Ended the game with a knock after being undone by Joselu, who set up the equaliser, in the build-up to Rioja’s goal.
DF Eric Garcia, 7 — Carried the ball out from the back well and had a great chance in the first half, his header well-saved by Antonio Sivera.
DF Jordi Alba, 6 — Didn’t stop attacking from the first whistle to the last, but didn’t have as much joy as he would have liked.
MF Sergio Busquets, 6 — Controlled the game but had a couple of sloppy moments when he was caught on the ball or mishit a pass.
MF Nico Gonzalez, 7 — A fantastic display from the young midfielder, who deserved an assist for one great run and scooped pass to put Memphis through.
MF Gavi, 7 — The latest in a string of impressive performances from the 17-year-old. Like Nico, a brilliant piece of skill deserved an assist, but Memphis could only hit the post. His touch and control is elite.
FW Sergino Dest, 5 — Continued in a more advanced role on the right wing but failed to deliver any real quality in the final third.
FW Sergio Aguero, 6 — The striker had to be taken off after just 40 minutes in worrying circumstances. Barca haven’t confirmed what the problem was yet, but it appeared to be related to his chest. He’s gone to hospital for further tests.
FW Memphis Depay, 7 — Opened the scoring with a stunning strike to end a run of 10 games without a goal from open play. Should have done more with the chances created by Gavi and Nico, though.
FW Philippe Coutinho, 5 — Another tough night as he was whistled by the home supporters for sending a series of long-range shots over the bar.
DF Clement Lenglet, NR — Called into action when Pique was forced off injured in the second half.
MF Riqui Puig, NR — Ostracised by Koeman, he received a huge ovation when he came on for the final 20 minutes.
FW Alejandro Balde, NR — A left-back by trade, he came on at left wing for the final minutes as Barca looked for a spark.
FW Abdessamad Ezzalzouli, NR — The B team winger was handed his debut for the final few minutes.