De Jong header gives Barcelona 1-0 win at Mallorca

Barca climbed two places to fifth on 31 points
from 19 matches, one point behind Atletico Madrid in fourth and 15 adrift of
leaders Real Madrid who have played a game more.

It was vindication time for striker De Jong
after several media reports that Barca want to move him on this month.

He got his second goal since arriving from
Sevilla in the close season – his first for more than three months.

The Dutchman was Barca’s best player on Sunday
as he also hit the post twice in the first half, once with a bicycle kick.

The goal came just before the break when he
headed home from close range after a cross by Oscar Mingueza.

Barca dominated the game until the final
minutes when Mallorca started pressing for an equaliser and almost got it.

Ter Stegen saved Barca in added time with an
unbelievable handball-style reflex save with his right arm, denying Jaume Costa
whose close-range strike looked like a sure goal.


“It was an historic win for us, I’m not
exaggerating,” Xavi told reporters. “Missing so many players, to go
back home with a win – it’s three points worth their weight in gold.

“The young players showed up and Ter
Stegen made a stop for the ages. I’m thrilled that we manage to win.”

Barca made the trip without the suspended
Sergio Busquets, five injured players (Ansu Fati, Pedri, Memphis Depay, Martin
Braithwaite and Sergi Roberto) and eight due to the COVID-19 outbreak at the
club (Sergino Dest, Philippe Coutinho, Ez Abde, Jordi Alba, Alex Balde, Ousmane
Dembele, Gavi and Dani Alves).

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Coach Xavi Hernandez, who said on Saturday
that it was “ludicrous” the game was going ahead, had to call on nine
players from Barca’s youth academy, starting two of them, Ilias Akhomach and
Ferran Jutgla, up front alongside De Jong.

But it was the Dutchman’s night as he led the
visitors to victory and back into European spots for the first time since Xavi
replaced Ronald Koeman as coach in November.

“It was important to win on a Sunday when Real
Madrid, Betis, Rayo Vallecano and Real Sociedad all lost points,” Barca
defender Eric Garcia told reporters.

“We managed to overcome a very
complicated situation missing many key players. In the end, we owe Ter Stegen
for 71% of our win. That stop was incredible.”

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