Xavi says increased confidence has led to improved Dembele performances

By Sports Desk January 25, 2023

Xavi credited Ousmane Dembele with changing his mentality in order to discover the form he has shown for Barcelona this season.

Barca reached the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey thanks to a second-half strike from Dembele to beat Real Sociedad 1-0 at Camp Nou, aided by the sending off of La Real midfielder Brais Mendez late in the first half.

Dembele attempted 11 dribbles during the game, equalling the highest total by a Barca player in a game this season, which came from the French winger himself against Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League.

Speaking to the media after the win, Xavi said that filling Dembele with confidence is the major difference from the player he inherited when he took charge of the club in November 2021.

"The only thing we have given Ousmane is confidence. I believe a lot in him," the Barca head coach said. 

"I always think he can generate many things for us. I see the faces of the full-backs and they suffer. The only thing that had to change was his decision-making at the last moment.

"I'm very happy for him because he got the winning goal. I think he's enjoying it and he's managed to turn his situation around.

"We try to guide Dembele so he makes the best decision on the field. I see tremendous conditions for him and he continues to be one of the best in his position.

"At Barca you have to have the ability to change your mentality and believe it, and I think at this stage he is succeeding. I see him very happy."

 

Dembele has been involved in 15 goals for the Blaugrana this season (eight goals, seven assists), already equalling his record of last campaign (two goals, 13 assists), while only Robert Lewandowski (27 – 22 goals and five assists) has been involved in more among Barca players.

The hosts dominated much of the quarter-final on Wednesday, though were grateful to Marc-Andre ter Stegen for making a vital save from Robert Navarro late on.

"The game at the end was complicated for us, where Ter Stegen saved us," Xavi added. "This is football and we have to learn, but we cannot end up suffering like this.

"We have dominated Real Sociedad with 11 [players], a team who had just won nine games in a row. The feelings are very positive and we are where we wanted to be, but we want to improve our effectiveness and we want to close games earlier."

La Real boss Imanol Alguacil said he was "annoyed" by Mendez's red card, suggesting the incident in which his player caught Sergio Busquets' ankle with his studs did not warrant overturning once the referee had initially decided on a yellow card.

"I don't like to use the word pride, because that means we lost," he said. "But today the sending off marked us... I think we have to value the effort of the team since we have had very clear situations and we have competed even with one less player.

"In the last 10 minutes the draw was much closer than 2-0."

Related items

  • Late Martin Boyle brace fires Hibs into cup semi-finals after beating St Mirren Late Martin Boyle brace fires Hibs into cup semi-finals after beating St Mirren

    Martin Boyle’s late double settled a thriller against St Mirren and sent Hibs into the Viaplay Cup semi-finals following a 4-2 victory.

    The visitors had gone in at half-time ahead thanks to Scott Tanser’s fine effort.

    Goals from Elie Youan and Dylan Vente then gave Hibs the advantage, only for Keanu Baccus to level things at 2-2.

    With 10 minutes left to play, Boyle smashed home what proved to be the winner before adding a late fourth to extend Nick Montgomery’s undefeated start as Hibs manager.

    Montgomery made two changes to the side that defeated St Johnstone at the weekend as in came Christian Doidge and Youan, with Adam Le Fondre and Jair Tavares dropping out.

    St Mirren also made two alterations after their win over Hearts. There were places for Caolan Boyd-Munce and Mikael Mandron, who replaced Baccus and Connor McMenamin.

    It was the visitors who had the first chance but Greg Kiltie’s goalbound header lacked the power to trouble David Marshall.

    Former Hibs midfielder Alex Gogic then had a stab goalwards from Boyd-Munce’s deep free-kick that was also saved.

    Saints were on top at this point and Ryan Strain’s searching ball picked out Toyosi Olusanya but his lobbed effort over Marshall drifted off target.

    Boyle then came within inches of getting onto the end of Joe Newell’s enticing ball from the Hibs right flank.

    St Mirren moved in front two minutes before half-time when Strain’s back-post cross was headed backwards by Mandron and Tanser thrashed in a half-volley from the edge of the box.

    Hibs had a good chance from a similar position early in the second half but this time Rocky Bushiri dragged his effort well wide.

    The home side, though, did draw level after 52 minutes when Boyle’s corner was nodded towards goal by Will Fish for Youan to touch in from close range.

    Two minutes later, Hibs were in front. Lewis Miller’s cross picked out Vente in space and the striker was able to turn before firing his shot beyond Zach Hemming.

    Saints nearly fell further behind when Boyle was allowed to dribble in on goal before forcing Hemming into a smart stop.

    But they worked their way level after 76 minutes. Mark O’Hara picked out Baccus and the Australia international was allowed to run in on goal before finishing well in the far corner.

    Hibs, though, went back in front four minutes later. Gogic stretched to try to cut out a cross but could only divert it to Boyle, who scored via the underside of the bar.

    The forward missed a sitter to extend Hibs’ lead but made no mistake in time added on to seal the win.

  • Alexander Isak grabs winner as Newcastle beat Manchester City in Carabao Cup Alexander Isak grabs winner as Newcastle beat Manchester City in Carabao Cup

    Alexander Isak fired Newcastle into the Carabao Cup fourth round at the expense of Manchester City.

    The Sweden international struck eight minutes after the break to seal a 1-0 victory for the Magpies – their first over City in any competition in 11 attempts – in front of a crowd of 51,692 at St James Park.

    Their place in the draw was reward for a dogged display by a team featuring 10 changes to the one which started Sunday’s 8-0 Premier League victory Sheffield United, but one which was particularly hard-earned after they were given the run-around before the break by Pep Guardiola’s under-studies.

    Guardiola made eight changes, three of them to include Mateo Kovacic, Kalvin Phillips and Jack Grealish, and – while having indicated in advance that the competition was the least of his priorities – saw his side dominate for long periods but ultimately fail to turn the pressure they exerted into goals.

    With Phillips and Kovacic controlling the midfield battle, the Magpies were absent as an attacking force for much of the first half.

    By contrast the link between Rico Lewis, Oscar Bobb – making his first senior start – and Sergio Gomez down the City right proved profitable repeatedly.

    Goalkeeper Nick Pope was called upon for the first time with 18 minutes gone when Bobb turned smartly on Phillips’ ball to feet and raced towards goal before feeding Julian Alvarez, whose low shot was blocked by the keeper’s boot.

    Paul Dummett had to make a perfectly-timed challenge to deny Grealish a clear run at goal and Sandro Tonali threw himself into the path of Kovacic’s goal-bound strike with Newcastle’s inability to retain the ball causing them all kinds of problems.

    Alvarez blazed a 28th-minute shot across goal after running on to Bobb’s clever flick from Kovacic’s square ball as the home side chased shadows, although they might have changed the narrative of the first half four minutes before the break.

    Joelinton’s interception on halfway allowed Isak to feed Jacob Murphy, who surged forward before firing across keeper Stefan Ortega, who blocked with a leg.

    Eddie Howe made a double change before the restart, replacing Lewis Hall and 17-year-old midfielder Lewis Miley, who was also starting for the first time, with Bruno Guimaraes and Anthony Gordon and the Magpies instantly had a better balance.

    Tonali saw a 48th-minute shot blocked after he, Murphy and Tino Livramento had combined down the right and Newcastle were ahead five minutes later.

    Murphy cut inside and found Joelinton, who powered his way into the penalty area before smashing the ball across goal from a tight angle to find the unmarked Isak, who finished with ease at the far post.

    In an instant, the atmosphere inside St James’ Park changed with the visitors finding themselves under sustained pressure for the first time.

    Grealish curled a 75th-minute shot into Pope’s arms as City responded, but their efforts were tepid and Guardiola was booked by referee Chris Kavanagh as he vented his frustration on the sideline.

    His mood did not improve as City’s weak efforts to redeem themselves came to nothing despite Phil Foden’s introduction.

  • Blackburn put five past Cardiff to reach Carabao Cup fourth round Blackburn put five past Cardiff to reach Carabao Cup fourth round

    Andrew Moran scored two and set up two as Blackburn overpowered Cardiff 5-2 in the Carabao Cup third round.

    Jake Garrett’s composed finish set Rovers on their way in the 13th minute before Callum Robinson marked his first start of the season with a thunderous equaliser.

    The 19-year-old Brighton loanee Moran’s first assist came in the 36th minute when his cutback was turned home by Arnor Sigurdsson on his home debut, but the much-changed Bluebirds hit back again through Kion Etete’s brilliant, improvised equaliser in first-half stoppage time.

    A second-half Rovers blitz put the game beyond doubt. Moran profited from woeful defending to score his first goal in English football just after the break, before inducing a foul that led to a Sigurdsson spot kick that was well saved.

    He doubled his tally and Blackburn’s lead in the 54th minute with a spectacular long-range effort, before feeding Dilan Markanday to register a fifth 15 minutes later.

    Rovers have made the fourth round for the second consecutive campaign, having netted 17 times in their three outings in the competition so far this season.

    Home debutant Leopold Wahlstedt made a sharp low save early on to deny Etete, but Blackburn clinically hit the front when James Hill’s long pass found Garrett who controlled brilliantly and slotted underneath Runar Alex Runarsson.

    Cardiff equalised in the 18th minute when Robinson found space 25 yards out to rifle an unstoppable drive into the bottom left corner.

    Harry Pickering flashed an effort just wide of the post soon after and Rovers reasserted control in the 36th minute when a slick counter attack saw Moran cut back perfectly for Sigurdsson to slam home from six yards.

    Etete superbly equalised in first-half stoppage time, controlling a pass on the left and holding off two defenders before turning and producing a screamer that flew into the bottom right corner.

    But they were put to the sword early in the second half. Runarsson made a sprawling save to deny Markanday but could do nothing in the 49th minute when Moran intercepted a Jonathan Panzo pass and slotted past the goalkeeper.

    Moran then tricked his way into the box and was brought down by Ebou Adams but Sigurdsson’s low penalty was well saved by his Icelandic teammate Runarsson who parried behind.

    The beleaguered keeper was helpless from the resulting corner though as Moran curled a sumptuous 25-yard drive beyond him in the 54th minute.

    Adams denied Semir Telalovic a certain fifth soon after, while Bluebirds debutant James Crole curled on to the roof of the net.

    But relentless Rovers hit their fifth in the 69th minute when Moran’s perfectly weighted pass found Markanday on the right who stroked home into the far corner via a post.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.