Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored his first three goals for Barcelona in a 4-1 win at Valencia - the third a deflection attributed to him only after the match, lifting his side to fourth place in La Liga on Sunday.
The former Arsenal striker, who last found the net in October in the Gunners’ 3-1 win over Aston Villa, now has 10 goals overall this season.
Frenkie de Jong scored the second goal for Barcelona, who looked much improved after struggling at the start of the campaign in the wake of the departure of talisman Lionel Messi.
Initially the fourth goal was attributed to Pedri, but when the referee issued his match report after the game, he switched it to Aubameyang as Pedri’s strike was deflected off the striker’s back on its way in.
Carlos Soler scored a consolation goal for the locals.
The win lifted Barcelona into fourth place on 42 points from 24 games, tied with Atletico who are fifth on goal difference. Real Madrid top the table with 57 points.
Barca were once again clinical up front, scoring four goals from only six shots on target. They have now netted 10 goals in their last three league games.
“We are beginning to find that efficiency that we were lacking earlier in the season,” captain Sergio Busquets told reporters.
“I hope Aubameyang is that one piece that we were missing up front. He is a great player that arrived hungry because he was not getting many opportunities at his last club. It is a luxury having him in our team.” It was also a busy afternoon for the video assistant referee, who had to intervene at two key points, disallowing a first-half goal for Valencia after spotting that the ball was inches out of play at the start of the move, and later overturning a penalty for Barca due to Aubameyang being very narrowly offside.
Barca appear to be refinding their confidence in the last few weeks under manager Xavi Hernandez. They were in charge of possession from the beginning, and Marc-Andre ter Stegen was solid at the back, frustrating almost all Valencia’s efforts to fight back.