Barcelona makes it four wins in a row in LaLiga as they beat strugglers Elche 2-0 to go back to third.
The Catalan club took the lead before half time as Frenkie de Jong was on the spot to convert on the line, capitalising on Diego Gonzalez’s miscued clearance.
Martin Braithwaite did the hard work down the right collecting Pedri’s pass and crossing.
Griezmann tried a shot but Diego Gonzalez diverted it past his own keeper. De Jong followed the ball in and with only half of it over the line he got the final touch.
I touched the ball before it crossed the line,’ said De Jong. ‘Since the new year we’ve been better. I can play better than this but I’m happy to have scored today.’
Elche is away in action to Valencia in a league game next Saturday. While Barcelona takes on Rayo Vallecano in the Copa del Rey on the road on Wednesday.
Barca struggled to kill off the game and Marc-Andre ter Stegen was called on to make a crucial save to deny Emiliano Rigoni.
However, Riqui Puig seals all three points with a close-range header from De Jong’s cross in the closing stages.
The youngster Puig scored his first goal for the club and made a point to his wary coach Ronald Koeman.
Odds have always been high around the 21-year-old but Koeman has never bought into the idea. He wanted to loan him off in the summer and had given him just 22 league minutes going into this game.
At the point he came on with only three minutes left, it barely felt like an opportunity yet the midfielder took it heading in the second goal from Frenkie de Jong’s cross.
‘This is a tough season for me since I’m not playing a lot however as my father says, we simply need to keep on, working and learning,’ said Puig.
‘We need the midfielders to get forward and get the goals,’ said Koeman. ‘Riqui isn’t the biggest however he did well to get the header on time.’
Elche has not won a game since October and Barcelona took off Dembele believing they had the victory despite the narrow margin.
Pedri was still Barca’s best player and when he was fouled there were screams of ‘card!’ from the visitor’s bench desperate to defend a player who is fast emerging as their most valuable player – especially in the absence of the suspended Lionel Messi.