Frenkie de Jong leads Barca to Elche win without Lionel Messi

Frenkie de Jong leads Barca to Elche win without Lionel Messi”

Barcelona earned another three points following the 2-0 win over Elche thanks to Frenkie de Jong and Ricard Puig.

De Jong poked the ball over the line just before half-time at the Martinez Valero, which would have proved a suitably scrappy victor before Puig came off the bench to head in a second late on.

De Jong has been pushed forward more by Ronald Koeman in recent weeks and it has paid off with the Dutch worldwide contributing two goals and an assist in January. "We've had to play all our games away and in La Liga we have won all of them so I think we have done well", said De Jong.

"For me, playing better is not just about goals and assists but I'm happy of course to score and assist today". Barcelona remained third in the points table but still 10 points far from leaders Atletico Madrid.

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Elche held their own for much of the first half but buckled as Barca increased the pressure, with the opportunistic De Jong finishing on the goal line after a Martin Braithwaite cross was sent goalward by Diego Gonzalez. Griezmann was denied then twice in the second half before Riqui Puig came on as a substitute and settled the game with a late header from a De Jong cross.

Marc-Andr Ter Stegen made a crucial foot-save to keep Barcelona ahead in the 56th after Elche forward Emiliano Rigoni entered the area in a one-on-one situation.

Elche has not won a match since the end of October and it has fallen into the relegation zone.

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