Ernesto Valverde Claims Barcelona Overcame a 'Difficult Test' After Eventually Breaking Down Alaves
Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde praised his side for overcoming a 'difficult test', after the Catalans beat Basque rivals Deportivo Alaves 2-0 away from home.
Both goals came courtesy of Lionel Messi with Barcelona dominating possession with 73%, but it took until the 55th minute for the La Liga giants to break down Alaves's stubborn defence.
Speaking post-match, Valverde commented on the defensive mentality of their opponents, saying: "Alaves were so compact that their forward was closer to our midfielders than defenders.
"We've overcome a difficult test. It took a lot to open the scoring.
"They were stuck within a 15-metre space and it meant that sometimes we were so close that there were as many as 18 players in such a small space."
Barcelona also missed a penalty just before half-time, with Messi was denied by a very good save from Fernando Pacheco. However, the diminutive star got on the scoresheet after the break when his shot from Gerard Deulofeu's ball was deflected in and he scored a second from Jordi Alba's headed pass.
Messi, who has scored a record 351 La Liga goals, had the chance for a hat-trick, but his 20-yard shot hit the bar. Alaves threatened their visitors on a couple of occasions, most notably when Ruben Sobrino forced Marc Andre ter-Stegen into a save after racing through on goal, but Barcelona were by far the better team and deserved the win.
It has been a difficult summer for Barcelona with Neymar departing for PSG and suffering a 5-1 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup, although they have now won their opening two La Liga games and broken their transfer record to sign Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmund.