Fati scores in triumphant return for Barcelona

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MADRID (AP) – Wearing the No.10 shirt that belonged to Lionel Messi, Ansu Fati has made a triumphant return after a long injury absence on Sunday, scoring a goal and giving Barcelona fans hope for the future.

Fati, who had not played for more than 10 months due to a knee injury, scored in stoppage time to seal a 3-0 Spanish league win over Levante, which helped lighten up pressure on Barcelona after a three-game winless streak.

Fati, 18, was cheered by the crowd at the Camp Nou stadium when he entered the game in the 81st minute and then celebrated profusely after scoring with a low shot from outside the box.

He has been one of Barcelona’s most promising stars and is seen by many as a player who can help the Catalan club overcome Messi’s painful departure from Paris Saint-Germain.

“I’m proud to be able to wear this number after Leo,” said Fati. “I am grateful to the club and the team captains for giving me this opportunity. It’s not pressure for me. I’m just grateful that I can wear this number which has given so much for the club.

It was Fati’s 14th goal in 44 appearances for Barcelona, ​​and his first since the “clásico” against Real Madrid at Camp Nou last October. He ran near the stands after the goal to thank his relatives.

“I am grateful to all of my family who have suffered during all these months,” he said. “I am grateful to everyone at the club and to the fans. They have all been very supportive of me.

Fati’s initial recovery time from his left knee injury was around four months, but there were several setbacks in the recovery process and he needed four surgeries to fully heal.

Fati made his first team debut in 2019 at the age of 16. He eventually became the youngest goalscorer for Barcelona and the Spanish national team.

Memphis Depay and Luuk de Jong each scored in the opening 15 minutes of the game to put Barcelona on the path to their first victory since the demoralizing 3-0 home loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League two weeks ago.

The squad have been in turmoil since then, with coach Ronald Koeman under pressure and at odds with club president Joan Laporta and even some of his players for saying the club will not realistically fight for the titles. this season.

“We are Barcelona, ​​we will always try to win everything,” said Fati. “We will fight for the league, for the Champions League and for all the competitions in which we participate. “

The team’s next game is at Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Koeman was not sitting on the bench on Sunday after being given a two-game suspension for complaining to the referee in the team’s home draw against Granada last week. He will also miss next weekend’s game against defending champions Atlético Madrid.

The victory propelled Barcelona to fifth place, five points behind leaders Real Madrid with a game short. Madrid were held by Villarreal to a scoreless draw at home on Saturday after four straight league wins.

Memphis, who had not found the net for Barcelona since the third round, opened the scoring by converting a penalty kick in the sixth minute after a foul. De Jong took the lead at close range after an assist from Sergiño Dest in the 14th for his first goal for Barcelona since arriving from Sevilla this season.

Levante remains winless after seven matches, with four draws and three losses. Granada and Getafe are the only other teams without a win this season.

OSASUNA RALLY LATE

Javi Martínez scored a game-winning goal in the 88th minute as Osasuna beat Mallorca 3-2 for their second win in three matches.

Osasuna’s three wins this season have come from away games.

It was Mallorca’s second straight loss, coming off a 6-1 loss to Madrid. The promoted club have not won since securing their second victory in the third round.

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