Barca ease past Alaves despite ‘unfair’ Roque red

Robert Lewandowski of FC Barcelona celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the LaLiga EA Sports match between Deportivo Alaves and FC Barcelona at Estadio de Mendizorroza on February 03, 2024 in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. 

The champions, third, took the lead through Robert Lewandowski in the first half and doubled their advantage when Ilkay Gundogan volleyed home soon after the break.

Samu Omorodion pulled a goal back for the hosts before 18-year-old striker Roque pounced and a few minutes later was harshly dismissed.

Barcelona´s victory helps them cut the gap on league leaders Real Madrid to seven points before Los Blancos face Atletico Madrid in a derby clash Sunday.

They have won both of their matches since Xavi announced last weekend he would leave the club at the end of the season.

“It has nothing to do with (Xavi departing),” Barcelona defender Jules Kounde told DAZN.

“The team knows that we have to recover what was our strength last year, which is defending well and competing.

“However much talent you have in the team, we play against talented teams too that also have soul -- at this ground you have to have soul and we had it today.”

Xavi selected Andreas Christensen in defensive midfield for the first time in his Barcelona career, with the Catalans still unable to find a reliable replacement for Sergio Busquets.

The Danish defender was solid and showed Xavi he is an option for the future in the role, ahead of the out-of-favour Oriol Romeu.

Alaves, 12th, started quickly and put the visitors on the back foot in the early stages, but could not capitalise on their pressure.

Barcelona took the lead when Lewandowski delightfully dinked home after a good team move, with Gundogan threading a pass through to him.

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