Xavi enjoys win on his return to Camp Nou as new Barcelona coach

Barcelona players celebrate their goal against Espanyol on Saturday. (FC Barcelona Twitter)
Barcelona players celebrate their goal against Espanyol on Saturday. (FC Barcelona Twitter)

Barcelona moved into sixth place in the Spanish league, eight points behind leaders Sevilla and second-place Real Sociedad



By AP

Published: Sun 21 Nov 2021, 1:22 PM

Last updated: Sun 21 Nov 2021, 1:39 PM

Xavi Hernandez needed a penalty to start his return to Camp Nou as Barcelona coach in winning fashion.

Barcelona’s 1-0 win against Espanyol on Saturday began the way Xavi wanted, with his team dominating the ball like the Spain great had when he joined Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta to forge one of football’s greatest sides as its midfield maestro.

But the same problems that had led to the demise of his predecessor soon emerged. Barcelona’s attack failed to turn their huge advantage in possession into shots on goal other than Memphis Depay’s second-half penalty, while their defense came apart in the final stretch.

Only Espanyol’s misfiring forwards stopped the Catalan derby from ending in a draw.

“Overall, I am happy, but it is clear that we have to improve,” Xavi said. “We are building a new project and these three points in a derby gives us a boost. It was tough because they could have scored. We were in control for 60, 70 minutes, but we should have been more patient and held onto the ball. It is a question of knowing how to interpret the match.”

The crowd of 74,000 chanted “Xavi! Xavi!” in the sixth minute in honor of the number Xavi wore for 17 seasons when he helped Barcelona win 25 titles. He was hired two weeks ago before an international break for club competition when Ronald Koeman was asked to go after one too many painful defeats.

Barcelona moved into sixth place in the Spanish league, eight points behind leaders Sevilla and second-place Real Sociedad.

Ivan Rakitic’s stoppage-time goal lifted Sevilla to the top of the table after fighting back for a 2-2 home draw with Alaves.

Atletico Madrid also needed a late goal by center back Felipe Monteiro to edge Osasuna 1-0 at home.

Villarreal stayed winless on the road in seven league games this season after Celta Vigo came from behind for a 1-1 draw.


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