Barcelona’s 16-year-old forward Ansu Fati yesterday marked his first senior start with a second-minute goal as the La Liga champions cruised past Valencia. The teenager burst onto Frenkie de Jong’s square ball to score the opener with a firm strike at the Nou Camp.
Fati then returned the favour five minutes later when he cut the ball back for De Jong to double the hosts’ lead.
Kevin Gameiro hit back but Gerard Pique and a Luis Suarez double sealed victory before Maxi Gomez’s late consolation.
The Barcelona academy graduate became the club’s youngest La Liga goalscorer last month when he opened his account within six minutes of coming off the bench in the champions’ 2-2 draw at Osasuna.
And Fati, who joined the club’s ‘La Masia’ academy in 2012 after moving to Spain from birthplace Guinea-Bissau at the age of six, was rewarded with a starting berth against Valencia after his performance in Pamplona.
Having become the youngest player to play for Barca since 1941, when he featured in the win over Real Betis on 25 August, the exciting forward could not have wished for a better full debut.
With injured club stalwart Lionel Messi gleefully watching from the stands, and the game barely a minute old, Fati timed his run to perfection to meet De Jong’s pass and beat former Barca goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen with a crisp finish.
The pair then reversed roles as Fati showed some neat footwork by the byline before cutting the ball back across goal for the Dutchman to smash into the roof of the net.
The teenager showed some deft touches that belied his years, shooting narrowly wide on two occasions, but there were also signs of his inexperience as he was dispossessed trying to dribble past three Valencia defenders just inside his own half.
The visitors sprung clear after winning the ball from Fati, and although nothing came from that particular move, they pulled one back moments later through Gameiro after the video assistant referee overruled the official’s offside decision.
Centre-back Pique restored Barca’s two goal-advantage when he was on hand to convert the loose ball from close range before Fati was replaced by Luiz Suarez to a standing ovation just before the hour mark.
Suarez opened his account just seconds after entering the fray with a fierce right-footed strike, before adding his second with a rasping low drive in the final 10 minutes.
Substitute Gomez then latched onto Denis Cheryshev’s low cross to secure a late consolation for the visitors, who remain in 12th place in the table, while victory for Barca moves them up to fourth.