Robert Lewandowski had a rare bad night against Bayern Munich mid-week but was back on goals against Elche to continue his good form in La Liga.
The striker also helped Barca’s cause by ensuring that Elche would play with 10 men for most of the game.
Lewandowski picked up a pass from Frenkie de Jong and it took a rough rugby tack from Gonzalo Verdu in the 14th minute to prevent him from going clear through the goal.
The red card duly came and the afternoon went downhill for an Elche squad that is off to a dismal start to the season.
Lewandowski made the season 10 for Barcelona with a close finish, then added a second after the break with an accurate low shot to bring his tally to 11.
You can’t keep a good man down is the old cliché and Lewandowski showed that on Saturday. He now has eight goals in 11 appearances for his new club and seems worth every penny Barca have spent bringing him to the club.
While Lewandowski was busy collecting a brace, it certainly didn’t go unnoticed that teenage left-back Alejandro Balde finished the game with two assists.
The 18-year-old was back in the starting line-up after missing out against Bayern, providing a fresh reminder of his talents with a strong showing.
Balde looks set to be a revelation for Barca this season and if he keeps up, he could land a full-time job as a left-back.
Alejandro Balde vs Elche
98% fit accuracy
2 key cards
2 big chances created
2/2 accurate crosses
1/1 accurate long ball
1/2 successful dribbles
1/3 antennas won
4/7 matches won
18 years old. A day he will never forget! pic.twitter.com/S3DQRRsD8h
— Football talent scout – Jacek Kulig (@FTalentScout) September 17, 2022
For now he has Marcos Alonso and Jordi Alba for the league, but you get the feeling that Alba should be quite concerned about his chances of minutes this season.
The 33-year-old may be part of Spain’s latest squad, but is clearly third-choice at Barca at the moment, a situation that doesn’t look set to change any time soon.
Saturday was also a good afternoon for Memphis Depay who amused himself against Elche and offered a reminder of his talents.
The Dutchman got the nod in the attack alongside Lewandowski and Ousmane Dembele and in front of Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati.
Memphis had been fiery from the start and had already caused problems for his well-taken goal from Balde.
The Dutchman received the ball in the penalty area with his back to the goal, turned brilliantly and then fired a rocket from a shot into the top corner.
However, there was more than that. The Dutchman did well for Lewandowski’s second goal, keeping the ball alive and out of Badia’s hands before the Polish international brought in Barcelona’s third of the afternoon.
Memphis knows he won’t be the first choice this season, but he has still pledged his full commitment to the team and could prove to be a handy roster for Xavi.
There was plenty to do for the Barcelona players against Elche, but one man who didn’t have the best afternoon was Franck Kessie.
The summer application was in from the start and presented a real opportunity to impress. However, he got an early booking for a stray elbow and then had to deal with Elche players who spent the rest of the first half trying to get him off the field.
Taking no chances, Xavi chose to take him out at halftime, so as not to lose him in the second half, and instead sent in a freshly revamped Gavi.
It was a difficult decision from the manager and a missed opportunity for Kessie.
The former Milan player has made six appearances this season, but is not enjoying the easiest start of his life at the Camp Nou.
Barcelona’s win takes the team to the top of the table, at least temporarily, but the Catalans could spend the international break at the top if Real Madrid slip up against Atletico on Sunday.
Xavi’s side is starting to take off after Rayo’s draw on opening day. Barça have now won five in a row in La Liga, scoring 18 and conceding just one goal.
Elche proved to be difficult opponents last season, but Barca came with comfortable winners on Saturday, albeit helped by the early red card.
23 – At home, Barcelona have played 23 LaLiga games against Elche undefeated (W16 D7) – the most home games the Blaugrana has played in the top division without defeat. Fort. pic.twitter.com/isUHrO8Tvm
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) September 17, 2022
Saturday’s visitors remain without a win and drop to the bottom of the rankings after the defeat at Camp Nou. Francisco’s side have so far taken just one point in 2022-23 and scored just two goals
One of these came from Barcelona mercenary Alex Collado. The midfielder was eligible to play against his mother club on Saturday but failed to come off the bench during what will have been a frustrating return to Camp Nou for the 23-year-old.