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LaLiga: Ousmane Dembele Sparkles As Barcelona Thrash Athletic Bilbao

Written by Patrick Echatah

Barcelona Winger Ousmane Dembele turned the jeers to cheers at Camp Nou on Sunday by scoring a wonderful goal and setting up two more in a 4-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao.


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Dembele’s second-half strike was his first since Barcelona told him he should leave if he refused to sign a new contract during the January transfer window.

Xavi Hernandez, on the other hand, has pushed on reintegrating Dembele in recent weeks, with Barca relying on the 24-year-old to finish in the top four in LaLiga. “He’s the greatest Dembele we’ve seen today, and that’s what we want,” Xavi said.

This victory puts Barcelona back into fourth place, above Atletico Madrid and now only one point behind Real Betis, who have been dragged into the scrap after they lost 2-1 to Sevilla earlier on Sunday.

Following an impasse in contract discussions, Dembele made his Camp Nou debut in the Europa League against Napoli earlier this month, when Xavi brought him on as a substitute to the wrath of the home fans. However, many Barcelona fans supported the striker in that game as well, highlighting the emotional bind in which the club’s fans have found themselves, torn between supporting a player Xavi wishes to keep and venting their displeasure with his desire to go for free.

When Dembele was introduced in the 67th minute, they whistled again, but they had no choice but to clap. After Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had given Barcelona the lead, Dembele used his pace and power to score a superb second goal. In injury time, he set up Luuk de Jong and Memphis Depay with two excellent crosses.

Xavi appears to have managed the situation as smoothly as possible, with Dembele noticeably going over to celebrate with Barcelona’s coach, who gave him a hug and an approving pat on the head.

“It’s not a question for me, it’s a question for the club, for Ousmane,” Xavi said. “His contract ends (in the summer). Nothing can be ruled out in football. He couldn’t play and now he’s playing. He can be the best in his position.”

For the first time since May 2017, Barcelona has scored four goals in three consecutive games, with Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suarez claiming 11 of them. Aubameyang’s opener was a difficult finish made to seem simple, with Gerard Pique’s header rebounding against the crossbar and forcing Aubameyang to reposition his feet before volleying in.

Dembele’s was as spectacular, as he received the ball on the left flank and squared up to Athletic’s Inigo Martinez before racing left towards the line and unleashing a drive that went past the near post and into the net. In injury time, there was still time for two more goals, and Dembele provided both, raising one cross for De Jong to head in before curling another low ball into the six-yard box, where Depay finished on the slide.

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Meanwhile…

Barcelona midfielder Pedri turned on the style yet again during Sunday’s 4-0 win over Athletic in La Liga at the Camp Nou.

The 19-year-old was once again influential in midfield and also stunned the crowd with a gorgeous backheeled nutmeg in the second half.

Unsurprisingly, the moment of magic from Pedri quickly had the fans singing his name.

Pedri actually spoke about the incident after the game and admitted he’d have been in trouble if he hadn’t been able to pull it off.

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