Dembele‘s explosive finish in the second half was his first goal since the end of the January transfer window, when Barca told the Frenchman he should leave if he refused to sign a new contract.
But Xavi Hernandez has insisted on reintegrating Dembele in the last few weeks, with Barca needing the 24-year-old in their fight to finish in La Liga’s top four.
This victory puts them back into fourth place, above Atletico Madrid and now only one point behind Real Betis, who have been dragged into the scrap after they lost 2-1 to Sevilla earlier on Sunday. Second-placed Sevilla’s win reduces the gap to Real Madrid back to six points.
After bitter contract talks ended in stalemate, Dembele played at Camp Nou against Napoli in the Europa League earlier this month, when Xavi brought him on as a substitute to screeching whistles from the angry home supporters.
Yet many gave their backing to the forward in that game too, demonstrating the emotional bind Barcelona fans have found themselves in, caught between supporting a player Xavi wants to use and venting their frustration at his intention to leave for free.
This time, they had little choice but to applaud as Dembele used his pace and power to score a brilliant second goal after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had earlier given Barca the lead, an acrobatic finish making it five goals in his last three games for his new club.