BARCELONA :Two second-half goals from Sergi Roberto rescued a 3-2 home win for champions Barcelona against bottom side Almeria in LaLiga on Wednesday, putting an end to their three-game winless run in all competitions as they head into the Christmas break.
Barcelona, who were held to a 1-1 draw at Valencia and beaten 4-2 at home by leaders Girona in their previous two league fixtures, moved up to third on 38 points from 18 games.
They are six points behind Girona and four adrift of second-placed Real Madrid, who visit Real Betis and Alaves respectively on Thursday.
“There was more suffering than I expected and than we deserved,” said coach Xavi Hernandez.
“We shot 30 times and gave away two goals. The first half is unacceptable for me as a coach. The second half, yes. We failed a lot and we’ve been doing that for a month and a half or two.
“The team lacked soul. The team does not have that soul that it had last season. Neither aggressiveness, nor concentration … The one in the second half is the Barca that I want.”
Barcelona dominated the first half but squandered the vast majority of their 15 chances – five of them on target – and the game was level at halftime after Almeria forward Leo Baptistao cancelled out the opener from Raphinha.
Raphinha had given Barcelona the lead in the 33rd minute, netting a rebound from close range, after Almeria keeper Luis Maximiano denied a header from defender Ronald Araujo following a corner.
But the visitors equalised shortly before the break when Baptistao scored with a chipped finish, a goal which was initially ruled out for offside but the referee reversed his decision after a VAR check.
Roberto restored the lead for Barca at the hour mark, nodding home a corner, before Edgar Gonzalez found another leveller for Almeria and then Roberto put Barcelona again in front, nutmegging Maximiano from close range.
The 31-year-old winger scored the first brace of his Barcelona career across all competitions, having played more than 350 games for the Catalan club.
“I’m pleased that it’s Sergi Roberto because he is an example, whether he plays or not. He almost scored a hat-trick, but beyond that there is the work, how he encourages other players. I’m happy for him,” Xavi added.
Barcelona next travel to mid-table Las Palmas in LaLiga on Jan. 4.
Almeria, still without a league win this season, remain bottom on five points.