Coutinho

Ronald Koeman has praised Philippe Coutinho for scoring his first goal in 11 months after coming off the bench in Barcelona in a 3-1 win against Valencia on Sunday.

Koeman says he has ‘always believed’ in the midfielder’s abilities and insisted his strike against Valencia was an ‘important step’ in his career at the club.

The Barcelona manager also that Coutinho gave his team the ‘freedom’ they needed to ‘control the game’ before claiming, ‘physically’ he is just getting ‘better and better’.

When asked about Coutinho’s performance in his post match conference, Koeman said: ‘It was good.

‘When he entered the game he was good. With his freedom we were able to control the game better. He knows how to score goals.

‘He has taken an important step because I have always believed in Coutinho. Physically, he is getting better and better.’

Coutinho played an important role in ending Barcelona’s run of back-to-back defeats – having lost to both Atletico Madrid and Benfica before the international break.

The Catalan giants initially went 1-0 down to Valencia on Sunday afternoon but managed to turn things around to win 3-1 at the Nou Camp.

Ansu Fati was the one who got Barcelona back into the game – levelling the score after 13 minutes with an impressive strike from the edge of the box, before going on to win a penalty.

Memphis Depay stepped up to take the spot kick and pushed the LaLiga giants into the lead. However, it was Coutinho who put the final nail in the Valencia coffin.

Having come off the bench, Coutinho scored from close range to see the game end 3-1.

Coutinho’s effort marked his first top-flight goal since 2020, having been sidelined for much of the last season.

As a result, Koeman had nothing but good things to say about the midfielder after the game on Sunday afternoon.

The Barcelona manager also praised Fati for his performance and insisted his penalty was justified after Gaya took him down four minutes before the break.

‘You can doubt whether it is a penalty or not,’ he added. ‘The referee has whistled, the VAR has not entered and, therefore, it is a penalty.’

Fati made a long-awaited start following a lengthy injury lay-off, while there were also debut minutes for Sergio Aguero off the bench late on, with Koeman adding: ‘It is the same case as Ansu.

‘He is an important player for his quality and experience. We want to give him minutes and he will be physically better to help the team. It is not a quality issue, but a fitness issue.’

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