Koeman pleased as Barca midfielders muck in with goals

Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Elche v FC Barcelona - Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero, Elche, Spain - January 24, 2021 Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman REUTERS/Pablo Morano

ELCHE, Spain (Reuters) - Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman expressed his satisfaction with his midfielders getting among the goals after beating Elche 2-0 in La Liga on Sunday thanks to strikes from Frenkie de Jong and Riqui Puig.

With Barca missing Lionel Messi through suspension, Dutch midfielder De Jong again took more responsibility for attacking and showed real hunger to ensure he got the final touch to give Barca the lead, even though the ball was heading into the net.

He then crafted the second goal, charging through midfield before finely chipping a pass for youngster Puig to head home.

"The second goal was all down to our two midfielders and that's exactly what we want from them, to get into the area and to help out the forwards," Koeman told reporters after a fourth straight league win for his side.

"Frenkie has really increased his quality and effectiveness recently and Riqui did well with very little time on the pitch. He's not very big but he jumped well to score the goal."

Messi, who was serving the final game of a two-match suspension for being sent off in last week's Spanish Super Cup final, has shouldered most of the responsibility for scoring Barca's goals with 11 league strikes this season.

Antoine Griezmann is second-top scorer with five goals and Koeman urged his midfielders, including the in-form De Jong, to keep chipping in.

He also praised his side for overcoming tiredness and getting the win after playing 120 minutes in their previous three games.

"Having three forwards is not enough, we need our midfielders to attack and score too, so it's great that Frenkie is scoring goals and assisting," the coach added.

"I'm very happy with the way we won the game, we have had a lot of games in the last few days but we stayed concentrated throughout and were much better than our opponents."

(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Toby Davis)

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