Barcelona struggled immensely to implement their passing game under the bright lights and newly-laid turf at Real Valladolid's Estadio Jose Zorrilla, with Ousmane Dembele scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win to help strengthen his position at the club with the transfer deadline looming.
Voicing his concerns prior to kick off on the playing surface, Barcelona manager Ernesto Valderde's worst fears were realised, with a plethora of divots, rough spots and craters quickly opening up. The pitch consequently served as an early leveler for the plucky Blanquivioletas, who took advantage of many uncharacteristic errors from the likes of Lionel Messi, Philippe Coutinho and Dembele to hit the Catalans on the counter early on.
Dembele, in particular, was enduring a torrid time early on, as he lost possession a staggering 16 times in the first half. Looking uncomfortable and with nothing he tried coming off, he appeared as though all the speculation linking him with a move to Paris Saint-Germain was weighing him down.
Positively, he did start to settle into proceedings after the 20 minute mark with the 2018 World Cup winner beginning to produce some moments of promise. Desperate to atone for his mistakes, he fired in an ultimately unsuccessful shot from the edge of the box, while also whipping in some teasing crosses into the area following some lovely dribbling.
Needing to build on these flashes of quality in the second-half, Valverde's tactical tweak saw Barca reshuffled into a 4-4-2 shape that changed to a 4-2-3-1 depending on Messi's positioning, which provided the catalyst for the Frenchman's matchwinner. Switching Dembele out to the right, just as he did in the Spanish Super Cup triumph over Sevilla, worked a treat once more as the 21 year old marked his one year anniversary at the club with a beautiful first-time finish.
In a goal that also punctuated his anticipatory skills, awareness and ability to strike the ball with both feet, his right-footed half volley was enough to secure all three points, before he was subbed off on 75 minutes. His job done, albeit in what was not an entirely convincing performance.
While his goal will give him some much needed confidence, uncertainty still reigns regarding his future and what his best role is. Valverde vitally still holds him in high esteem, recently insisting: "Of course I count on him, he's one of our players. Matchwinner in the Supercup, absolutely."
Seeing as Messi has reportedly weighed in to state his desire for the €145 million (£131m/$169m) star to stay in Catalunya, in combination with the fact Dembele's first year was derailed by injury will likely mean he stays for now. Barcelona will be eager to keep a player who is so gifted, still has so much scope for improvement and has a penchant to produce a moment of magic out of nowhere.
Obtaining the win was all that mattered in the grand scheme of things for Barca, but much more is expected from the enigmatic Dembele, who may have done just enough to convince the club to keep him around so he can reach those heights.