Ousmane Dembele put in another impressive showing as he scored the winner for Barcelona against Real Sociedad in the Copa del Rey.
Xavi credited Ousmane Dembele with changing his mentality in order to discover the form he has shown for Barcelona this season.
Barca reached the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey thanks to Dembele’s second-half strike as they beat Real Sociedad 1-0 at the Camp Nou, helped by the sending off of La Real midfielder Brace Mendez late in the first half.
Dembele attempted 11 dribbles during the match, equaling the highest tally by a Barca player in a game this season, which came from the French winger himself against Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League.
Speaking to the media after the win, Xavi said infusing Dembele with confidence was the main difference from the player he inherited when he took charge of the club in November 2021.
“The only thing we have given Ousman is trust. I believe in him a lot,” said the Barca head coach.
“I always think he can generate a lot of things for us. I see the faces of the full-backs and they are suffering. The only thing that had to change was his decision-making at the last minute.”
“I’m very happy for him because he got the winning goal. I think he’s enjoying it and he’s managed to turn his situation around.
“We are trying to guide Dembele to make the best decision on the pitch. I see great conditions for him and he continues to be one of the best in his position.”
“At Barca you have to have the ability to change your mentality and believe in it, and I think he’s doing that at this stage. I see him very happy.”
Dembele has been involved in 15 goals for the Blaugrana this season (8 goals, seven assists), already equaling his record from last campaign (two goals, 13 assists), while only Robert Lewandowski (27 – 22 goals and five assists) has more engages among Barca players.
The home side dominated much of the quarter-final on Wednesday, although they were grateful to Marc-Andre ter Stegen for a crucial save from Roberto Navarro.
“The game got complicated for us at the end, where Ter Stegen saved us,” added Xavi. “That’s football and we have to learn, but we can’t stop suffering like this.
“We dominated Real Sociedad with 11 [players], a team that has just won nine games in a row. The feelings are very positive and we are where we wanted to be, but we want to improve our efficiency and we want to close games earlier.”
La Real coach Imanol Alguacil said Mendez’s red card “annoyed” him, suggesting that the incident in which his player grabbed Sergio Busquets’ ankle with his nails did not warrant an overturn once the referee initially decided on the yellow card.
“I don’t like to use the word pride because it means we lost,” he said. “But today the suspension marked us… I think we have to respect the team’s effort because we had very clear situations and we fought even with one less player.
“In the last 10 minutes, the tie was much closer than 2-0.