Ousmane Dembélé and Frenkie De Jong changed the game as Barcelona came from behind to draw 1-1 with Frankfurt.
The Europa League quarter-final first-leg was a breathless affair where the German side dominated the first-half and took the lead before the Catalans regained control after half-time.
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In truth, things weren’t looking great when Xavi went to his bench to make the subs just after the hour mark. Barcelona were 1-0 down to a rampant Frankfurt and they had already lost Gerard Piqué to injury.
But the instant De Jong and Dembélé came off the bench, they added a sense of calm and control to proceedings. And so it was no surprise when less than five minutes later, both men played a big part in Barcelona’s brilliant equaliser.
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Picking the ball up wide on the right (after a superb Pedri pass, of course) the Frenchman looked at the massed Frankfurt defence and, rather than drive down the outside and whip a cross in like Adama Traoré had been doing to no avail, Dembélé cut infield and then reversed a beautiful ball behind the midfield line to fellow sub Frenkie De Jong.
De Jong didn’t even need a second to think, flicking the ball around the corner to Ferran Torres before spinning away from his man. Ferran fed the ball back to Frenkie, pulling the magnificent Martin Hinteregger over to the Dutchman who left the Frankfurt defender (who had been hitherto flawless) spinning in his shoes by sending it right back to Ferran.
Ferran Torres has now been directly involved in six goals in his last five games for Barcelona:
◉ 4 goals
◉ 2 assists
— Squawka (@Squawka) April 7, 2022
The Spaniard controlled the ball, hesitated for a second to shift the goalkeeper, and slotted home under pressure. It was a sublime goal, a strike that oozed Barcelona DNA as they picked their way through their foes before almost passing the ball into the net.
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Barcelona tried to find a winner but could not, while Frankfurt even had half-chances of their own on the break. But in the end it was the game-changing abilities of Ousmane Dembélé and Frenkie De Jong that turned the game in Barcelona’s favour.
Dembélé ended the night with the joint-most chances created (2) and the most crosses attemptd (5) despite playing just half an hour. He didn’t match Adama’s ridiculous 8/9 take-ons completed, but he was more effective at getting the ball to the danger men.
Barcelona are now unbeaten in their last 14 games across all competitions:
— Squawka (@Squawka) April 7, 2022
It was yet another superb performance in the ongoing redemption tour of both Dembélé and De Jong, who was rumoured to be leaving the club in January as he struggled in the early days of Xavi’s reign. Meanwhile Dembélé was subjected to boos from his own fans after his contract disputes have continued to drag on.
But both De Jong and Dembélé proved today that while Barcelona do have other players, there aren’t many with their game-changing world-class talents. Expect both men to start the second-leg and many more games beyond that as the Blaugrana set their sights on returning to the top table of European football.