• Barcelona beats Elche without Lionel Messi
  • Barca manager Ronald Koeman is pleased with the team's performance
  • Koeman acknowledges what's missing in the midfield

With Lionel Messi still out due to suspension, Ronald Koeman and Barcelona still managed to seal a victory over Elche.

As part of the two-game suspension following a red card against Athletic Club, Messi missed the action against Elche at Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero on Sunday.

The Catalans still played a sensational game even without their captain, thumping their La Liga rivals 2-0.

After the match, Koeman commended his squad’s defensive efforts which led to the decisive win.

According to Koeman, it was a well-deserved win and he was “very happy” with how his players performed.

"Defensively, apart from that mistake [one of Elche’s created chances], we did well,” the head coach told reporters in his post-match interview. “The best thing about today was our pressing and our performance without the ball. We deserved to win.”

"I'm very happy with how we won [the game]," he added. "We've had lots of matches in the last few days and we've kept focus. We were better than our opponents. We were patient. We won possession. It was difficult to score because they had lots of men behind the ball. But we pressed well.”

Koeman also lauded Frenkie De Jong, who handed Barcelona its first goal of the game at the 39th minute. However, the Dutchman still acknowledges the fact that they are missing an x-factor in the midfield.

With Messi out of the picture, Koeman formed the trio of Ousmane Dembele, Martin Braithwaite and Antoine Griezmann. But based on his assessment, it wasn’t enough as the squad needs someone who can still score while functioning as a midfielder.

"The three forwards aren't enough; we need the midfielders to score too," he examined. ”It's good that he's Frenkie [De Jong] scoring and assisting. He's improving. We want the midfielder to get into the box and get up there.”

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi was sent off as Athletic Bilbao won the Spanish Super Cup on Sunday.
Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi was sent off as Athletic Bilbao won the Spanish Super Cup on Sunday. AFP / CRISTINA QUICLER

Aside from De Jong, the previously under-fire Barca youngster Riqui Puig, who notched his first goal of the season, also played a key role in Barca’s win.

While his first goal was already a shock, Puig was even overwhelmed with the fact that he hit the back of the net with his head.

“It’s surreal to score with my head,” Puig said of his header with a few minutes left before the end of regulation. “I don’t think I have done since I was in the Cadete A [under-16s] team. I don’t score many anyway. And now I’ve done it with my head!

De Jong, on the other hand, vows he can still prolong his fine form throughout the season.

“I can still play better, but of course I am happy to be scoring and creating goals,” De Jong admitted. “Mentally we’re good, we’ve been working hard all year, growing and improving little by little. I hope we continue like this.”