Barcelona 2-1 Alaves: Lionel Messi scores winner as Philippe Coutinho makes full Barca debut
By Robert O'Connor
Last Updated: 29/01/18 10:13am
Lionel Messi scored a late free-kick as Barcelona staged a second-half comeback to defeat Alaves 2-1 in Philippe Coutinho's full debut at the Nou Camp.
Messi's goal completed a fine turnaround for the league leaders after John Guidetti had given the visitors a shock first-half lead from a fine counter-attacking move.
Coutinho was substituted midway through the second half, and minutes later Luis Suarez equalised from Andres Iniesta's cross to break Alaves' resolve.
The win restores Barca's 11-point lead at the top of La Liga, while Alaves remain a place outside the bottom three.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen (7), Semedo (7), Pique (7), Rakitic (7), Iniesta (8), Suarez (7), Messi (8), Coutinho (6), Paulinho (7), Digne (7), Umtiti (7)
Roberto (7), Alba (7), Alcacer (7)
Alaves: Pacheco (8), Alexis (6), Laguardi (7), Maripán (7), Duarte (7), Ibai Gómez (7), Medrán (7), Wakaso, H. Pérez (7), Guidetti (8), Rubén Sobrino (7)
Subs: Demirovic (6), El Haddadi (6), Alfonso (6)
Man of the match: Lionel Messi
Barca controlled the ball from the first minute but found Alaves' 4-4-2 formation a stubborn obstacle, and were made to wait until the 15th minute for a first sight of goal; Messi just failing to reach Suarez's low driven cross.
The visitors stunned the Nou Camp by taking the lead eight minutes later with Messi conceding possession deep in the Alaves half, before Alvaro Medran's sweeping long ball released Guidetti who lashed the ball inside Marc-Andre Ter Stegen's near post.
It was nearly 2-0 moments later when Ruben Sobrino lined up an angled shot, but Ter Stegen tipped his effort over the bar.
Messi came within inches of drawing his side level when his whipped free-kick was brilliantly turned against the post by Pacheo in the Alaves goal.
But it was the visitors who nearly doubled their lead again at the start of the second half, with Gomez Ibai nipping in behind from Guidetti's ball and feeding Ruben Duarte whose shot was deflected wide.
Coutinho was withdrawn for Alcacer with 25 minutes go having failed to spark Barca into life, and minutes later Suarez levelled, getting on the end of Iniesta's hanging cross to volley past Pacheo.
Coutinho made his full debut for Barca with Mess, Suarez and Iniesta also in attack.
Suarez nearly grabbed his second when he tried to slot past Pacheo, who stood up well to deflect the ball wide, but Messi eventually gave the hosts the lead when his free-kick was pushed into the roof of the net by the diving goalkeeper.
Alaves thought they should have had a penalty late on when Samuel Umtiti blocked Munir's shot with his hand, but referee Ignacio Iglesias ignored the appeals of the visitors as Barca went on to claim all three points.
Man of the Match - Lionel Messi
Was typically dangerous with the ball at feet around the Alaves box, and was always Barca's most conspicuous threat against a solid opponent who defended with organisation and determination.
His free-kick wasn't the best he has scored, and owed to the goalkeeper Pacheo whose hand on the ball was weak, but the Argentina international rescued his side when the goal looked like it wasn't going to come.
Barca now face Valencia in the Copa del Rey on Thursday at 8pm, while Alaves take on Celta Vigo in La Liga on Saturday at 5.30pm.