Robert Lewandowski scored just his second LaLiga goal since October as Barcelona beat Cadiz 2-0 to restore their eight-point lead over Real Madrid.
The 34-year-old added to Sergi Roberto’s opener as two goals late in the first half undid a Cadiz side who held their own for much of the Camp Nou clash and had two goals from Roger disallowed.
Another clean sheet, Barcelona’s 17th shutout in LaLiga this season, puts Xavi’s side a step nearer the title, and this was a seventh consecutive league victory, the third time they have had such a run under the leadership of their former midfielder.
It sealed a double for the season, too, with Barcelona having won 4-0 in September against the team who are now fighting a relegation battle, sitting just two points outside the bottom three.
Cadiz thought they had made a 19th-minute breakthrough when a delicious pass over the top from Santiago Arzamendia, with the outside of his left boot, found Roger. The striker finished well but had strayed a foot offside, to Barcelona’s relief.
Lacking service, Lewandowski barely had a sniff of goal until the 41st minute, when a cross from Ferran Torres on the right looked ideal for him to nod in at the far post. Under pressure, though, he could not make a clean connection.
The same combination combined as Barcelona struck two minutes later. Lewandowski’s stooping header from Torres’ clipped cross was kicked off the line by Isaac Carcelen but only as far as Sergi Roberto, who slammed it back into the back of the net from eight yards.
Lewandowski drove in Barcelona’s second goal in stoppage time, a clinical low strike from 16 yards taking his haul to 15 in the league this season.
The former Bayern Munich striker prodded a shot against the top of the bar early in the second half, before Cadiz’s Roger had a second goal disallowed after finishing well from a corner, with team-mate Fali penalised for a nudge into Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
The visitors perhaps had reason to feel aggrieved, and Cadiz kept pushing, with Ter Stegen saving well from substitutes Fede San Emeterio and Chris Ramos late in the game, before Anthony Lozano headed against the left post. It wasn’t to be their night.
What does it mean? Job done, Cadiz hard done by
It would have been hard to begrudge the visitors a point, given how much they contributed to this game. The first disallowed goal was correctly ruled out, but it was tight enough for Barcelona to be worried, while Cadiz might well ask questions about the second they had scratched off.
Yet Barcelona are winning even when not at their best, and this was one of those nights. Lewandowski has found league goals hard to come by of late, and Barcelona don’t appear to be playing to his strengths often enough, but he took his big chance well, as great players do.
Xavi made six changes for this game, a test of his squad depth, and Barcelona showed they have enough in reserve for games against this level of opposition.
So Lew wins again
With one goal in his last five games heading into this one, Xavi urged Barcelona to give Lewandowski the service he needed to be more prolific. He did not have any of Barcelona’s first seven attempts, but then they began to find him in the closing moments of the first half, and it turned out to be profitable.
His 15th goal came in his 19th LaLiga game, making him the second-fastest player to reach that number in the competition in the 21st century, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo, who hit 15 in his first 17 league appearances for Real Madrid.
Ansu Fati was given 86 minutes but struggled to impose himself on this game, being clearly the least effective of Barcelona’s front three.
While Torres and Lewandowski caused Cadiz trouble, Fati was mostly peripheral. He still had 50 touches, and completed 30 of 32 passes, but his game is lacking bite at present.
Xavi said before the game he thought Fati could develop into a Marcus Rashford-like figure for Barcelona, but this was more like the Rashford of last season, far short of what we know he can produce.
Key Opta Facts:
Barcelona have kept a clean sheet in 17 games in LaLiga this season, the highest tally for any team after 22 games surpassing Deportivo de La Coruna in 1993-94 (16).
The Blaugrana have conceded just seven goals in 22 games in LaLiga this season, setting the record for fewest goals conceded after 22 games in a single campaign (nine for Barcelona in 1986-87, Deportivo in 1993-94 and Atletico Madrid in 2017-18).
Sergi Roberto has scored and assisted in a single LaLiga game for the first time, and he has been decisive in two goals in a single game in the competition for the first time since November 2020 v Real Betis (2 assists).
Lewandowski scores every 0.8 games this season, the fourth highest tally in the Top 5 European leagues this season among the players with 5+ goals scored after Erling Haaland (1.13), Victor Osimhen (1) and Karim Benzema (0.9).
Barcelona head to Old Trafford for the second instalment of their Europa League play-off against Manchester United on Thursday, before a Sunday trip to Almeria in LaLiga. Cadiz tackle Rayo Vallecano next Saturday.