Messi Magic Saves Barcelona In Coutinho’s First Start

Philippe Coutinho was given his first start for Barcelona vs Alaves on Sunday. It wasn’t until he was subbed off that the Blaugrana really got going, rallying late for a 2-1 victory thanks to some Messi magic at Camp Nou.

Lionel Messi scored on a gorgeous free kick in the 84th minute to secure all three points for Barcelona, which trailed for most of the match after an early Alavés goal. It was another moment of joy from the Argentine maestro, who had a first-half free kick touched onto the post but came through with the match on the line. 

Coutinho debuted for Barcelona earlier in the week against Espanyol in the Copa del Rey, coming on in the 68th minute after the Blaugrana had already scored the two goals it needed to win 2-1 on aggregate. The second-most expensive footballer of all time started for the first time Sunday and while he helped create some excellent opportunities, he wasn’t able to play a role in any end product.

Barcelona vs Alaves

Philippe Coutinho made his first start for Barcelona vs Alaves on Sunday. Photo: @FCBarcelona | Twitter

The match wasn’t easy for Barcelona and the warning signs were there early. Marc-André ter Stegen was called upon to expertly stop a two-on-one counter attack in the 15th minute. But less than 10 minutes later Alavés went ahead 1-0 when John Guidetti completed another killer counter attack. 

The finish wasn’t exactly how the Swedish striker planned it, with the former Manchester City man slipping and kicking it off his plant foot, but he’ll take the end result.

Alavés had the best of the opportunities in the first half but was only able to convert the one chance. Against Barcelona, especially at Camp Nou, wasting opportunities is a surefire way to lose a match.

Though the Blaugrana pressed and prodded, it wasn’t until after Coutinho was subbed off for Paco Alcácer in the 66th minute that they turned the match around. 

After 69 minutes, Barca nearly equalized only for Alavés keeper Fernando Pacheco, who pulled off and incredible double save on Paulinho.

It was Luis Suarez who finally put Barcelona on the board two minutes later. He connected to a looping, back-post cross from Andres Iniesta with an impressive volley that found its way into the back of the net from a wide angle. It was the eighth straight match in which Suarez has scored, giving him 11 total strikes in that span. 

After Messi’s goal, Alavés had a penalty shout when Samuel Umtiti’s hand blocked a shot in the box, but the referee didn’t call it, providing a little luck for Barcelona vs Alaves. 

The win pushed Barcelona back to 11 points ahead of Atletico Madrid atop the La Liga standings and kept the Catalan club unbeaten with 18 wins and three draws. 

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