Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman took time out to praise goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and youngster Riqui Puig after Sunday’s 2-0 win at Elche in La Liga.
Goals from Frenkie de Jong and Puig made it four straight wins in La Liga for Barca, although they needed Ter Stegen to pull off a fine save in the second half to deny Elche an equalizer.
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Barca Lucky To Have Ter Stegen
Ter Stegen was called into action after Oscar Mingueza failed to control a pass from Samuel Umtiti, allowing Emiliano Rigoni to run through on goal. Ter Stegen managed to save Rigoni’s shot and Koeman admitted it had been a key moment, as reported by Marca.
I’m very happy with how we won [the game]. We’ve had lots of matches in the last few days and we’ve kept focus. We were better than our opponents. We were patient. We won possession. It was difficult to score because they had lots of men behind the ball. But we pressed well.
“They didn’t have chances – they only had one chance and it came from a big mistake from our defence. But Ter Stegen was very good in the one-on-one [chance]. Luckily we have a good goalkeeper, because they could’ve equalised there.
Defensively, apart from that mistake, we did well. The best thing about today was our pressing and our performance without the ball. We deserved to win.
Defensive errors have plagued Barca all season and have contributed to their disappointing start to the 2020-21 campaign. Ter Stegen’s save was a big moment in the game and follows on from his impressive performance at the Spanish Super Cup where he was kept busy in the semi-final win over Real Sociedad.
6 – Marc-André ter Stegen 🇩🇪 made six saves against Real Sociedad, equalling their best tally in a single game for @FCBarcelona this season in all competitions (also six vs Dynamo Kiev in #UCL). Besides, he saved two of the five penalties in the penalty shoot-out. Hero. pic.twitter.com/mwqmMXbQbf
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 13, 2021
The 2-0 win means that Barca have now kept nine clean sheets in a row against Elche in La Liga and are also unbeaten in that stretch of matches, according to Opta.
Koeman Praises Puig
There was also some rare praise from Koeman for Puig after the youngster netted his first Barcelona goal. The midfielder has struggled for game time under Koeman but did appear to impress the Dutchman on Sunday.
He came off the bench well and also jumped very well. He got into the box, which is where we want our midfielders to be. When the coach gives you minutes, you have to show that you have a future [at the club]. He was important in this game.
Koeman advised Puig to look for a loan move earlier this season, in order to play more regularly, and has also hinted he’s not enjoyed more first-team minutes in 2020-21 because he’s not working hard enough in training.
It’s not clear yet if Puig’s goal will help him enjoy more first-team minutes, although he is likely to make just his second start of the season on Wednesday when Barca play Rayo Vallecano in the Copa del Rey.