Sergi Roberto and Robert Lewandowski were on target as Barcelona restored their eight-point lead at the top of LaLiga with a 2-0 win over Cadiz at Camp Nou on Sunday.
Both goals came late in the first half. Roberto broke the deadlock after good work from Ferran Torres before Lewandowski scored his 15th league goal of the season with a good strike from the edge of the box.
Substitutes Chris Ramos and Anthony Lozano both came close to pulling one back after the break for Cadiz and Cadiz also had two goals disallowed, but Barca comfortably held on to stretch their unbeaten run in all competitions to 18 games.
1. Barcelona don't skip a beat amid squad rotation
With injuries accumulating, Barca coach Xavi Hernandez will have been pleased with how a much-changed side picked up three points against Cadiz. He made six changes to the side that drew with Manchester United in the Europa League and was later able to rest Lewandowski and Frenkie de Jong with the second leg at Old Trafford on Thursday in mind.
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Two goals just before the break meant Barca could ease up in the second period. Roberto, one of the Players to come into the team, had already drawn one save from Jeremias Ledesma when he benefitted from a terrific Torres run to open the scoring. Lewandowski then scored a much-needed goal. He's struggled to hit top form since the World Cup and was goalless in three games. Still, his goal here took him to 24 for the season in all competitions in just 29 appearances. Only the crossbar denied him a second goal later.
Cadiz rallied after the break. Roger Marti had a goal ruled out, as he had done in the first half, and Sergio Gonzalez's side may feel they created enough chances to at least pull one goal back. But Barca remained relatively in control and, after seeing Real Madrid beat Osasuna on Saturday, ensured their eight-point pre-weekend gap remains in place.
2. Torres proves his worth for Barcelona
In his first start in exactly a month, Ferran Torres reminded Barca why they paid around €50 million to sign him from Manchester City a year ago. Torres was exhilarating in the first half, taking on Cadiz left-back Santiago Arzamendia time and again to great effect.
He shot just wide in the 22nd minute and then created a great chance for Lewandowski in the 41st before setting up the opener moments later. After picking up the ball on the right, he beat three Cadiz Players -- Arzamendia, Ruben Alcaraz and Fali -- before crossing for Lewandowski. The Polish striker's header was saved but Roberto turned him the rebound. It was the first goal in LaLiga this season to feature three consecutive take-ons by a single player, Torres, in the goal scoring possession.
Amid all the debate which has surrounded Torres about his position, this was a real back-to-basics performance from him. He's played on the left and through the middle this season, but he was at his best here on the right, staying wide and running at the opposition.
3. Cadiz's run at Camp Nou ends
Camp Nou has been a happy place for Cadiz since they returned to LaLiga in 2020. They drew 1-1 at Barca in their first season and recorded a memorable 1-0 win last season. But they were unable to make it three unbeaten at Spain's biggest stadium Sunday.
Gonzalez's tactics were neither here nor there. They did not sit as deep as some teams do or crowd their defence with five. However, they did not -- or at least were not able to -- press Barca high as they played out from the back fairly easily.
That said, they did fashion some chances. Roger had two goals ruled out, one for offside and the other for a Fali foul on Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Ramos almost scored a brilliant solo goal and Lozano's header hit the post.
There were no goals and no points, though, to leave Cadiz hovering just two points clear of the relegation zone despite recording two wins in their last three games before this weekend.
Best and worst performers
Best: Ferran Torres, Barcelona
He was Barca's brightest attacker in the first half and a real nuisance for Cadiz. The question now is whether he can string together a run of performances like this.
Best: Andreas Christensen, Barcelona
The defender was so good at stepping up to win the ball back and start attacks. He also completed more passes (31) than anyone else in the first half.
Best: Sergi Roberto, Barcelona
Has not had many minutes but came into the midfield wearing the captain's armband and scored one goal and created the other one.
Worst: Fali, Cadiz
Lost his individual battle against Lewandowski, who wrong footed him for the goal, and fouled Ter Stegen to cancel out Roger's goal.
Worst: Ruben Alcaraz, Cadiz
He was called across to help Arzamendia deal with Torres but was unable to get to grips with the Barca forward, eventually earning a booking.
Worst: Ansu Fati, Barcelona
While Torres excelled, Fati will feel he missed his chance. Had some good moments but air kicked twice in the final third when he could have found the net.
Highlights and notable moments
After a brilliant dribble through traffic, Ferran Torres crossed into the box. Sergi Roberto's first shot was blocked, but not his second.
Sergi Roberto opens the scoring for Barcelona after a brilliant dribble from Ferran Torres! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/64QYusqmmK— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 19, 2023
Just before the halftime whistle, it was Robert Lewandowski's turn to get in on the scoring, putting Barcelona up 2-0.
Robert Lewandowski is back on the scoresheet!
Barcelona double their lead against Cadiz 👀 pic.twitter.com/vJsjfG6xXQ— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 19, 2023
After the match: What the managers said
Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez on the result and performance: "We dropped the intensity in the second half. It's normal. There have been a lot of games, there is a lot of tiredness and we were two goals up. Cadiz also generated some dangerous chances at the end, but I am happy with the way we played. We kept a clean sheet and we are still eight points clear."
Xavi on the performance of Torres: "I am delighted for Ferran. He took a step forward tonight. It was one of his best games since he came to the club. He sacrificed himself, he ran for the team, he helped the full-back ... People value goals and assists, which is normal, but we focus on other things. He has a spectacular attitude."
Cadiz manager Sergio Gonzalez on the result: "We knew where we were coming. It's a tough stadium and Barca have not lost in a long time. We deserved to stay in the game for longer. The only complaint I have is switching off between the two goals. We can't keep reacting poorly after conceding."
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)
Barcelona's seven goals allowed through 22 LaLiga games this season is the fewest through 22 games played in LaLiga history.
Sergi Roberto now has three league goals this season, his career best in a single LaLiga season. Seven of his eight career LaLiga goals have been in the last four seasons.
Robert Lewandowski scored his 24th goal with Barcelona this season in all competitions. The last player other than Lionel Messi to score that many goals for the club in a season was Luis Suárez in 2018-19 (also 24).
Lewandowski snaps a three-game scoring drought with Barcelona in all competitions, which was tied for his worst this season. His last streak of four games without a goal at club level was 2016 with Bayern Munich.
Lewandowski also becomes the fifth player with 30+ goals contributions this season in all competitions by Players on teams from Europe's top five leagues.
Barcelona: The Blaugrana face Manchester United in the second leg of the Europa League on Thursday, Feb. 23 at 3 p.m. Then, Barca return to LaLiga action against Almeria on Sunday, Feb. 26 (stream live on ESPN+ at 12:30 p.m. ET).
Cadiz: El Submarino Amarillo resume their LaLiga campaign on Saturday, Feb. 25 against Rayo Vallecano (stream live on ESPN+ at 10 a.m. ET).