Barcelona looked quite complicated in the early moments of the their UEFA Champions League opener against Juventus, but things became clearer for them after they scored the first goal. And eventually they ended cruising their way into the second half thanks to an impressive performance from Lionel Messi.
The Argentinian star lifted Barca to a 3-0 win against Juventus thanks to an impressive performance. Messi netted two goals and collaborated with an assist as Los Blaugranas secured their first three points in the competition. But things were not as easy as the score line indicated, especially in the first half.
Juventus dominated early on but couldn’t capitalise their chances
Barcelona dominated the first half in terms of possession, and they moved the ball around with relative ease during the first 45 minutes. But unlike in other matches, they did not penetrate Juventus’ defensive line with ease. The reigning Serie A champions looked stout at the back, and Barca struggled to create anything even remotely dangerous.
In fact, one could say that Juventus generated the best scoring chances early on. A long-range shot from Mattia De Sciglio was brilliantly parried away by Marc-Andre Ter Stegen in the sixth minute. Paulo Dybala came close to score on a counter but his attempt went straight to the opposing goalkeeper. And Miralem Pjanic tested Ter Stegen as well, but the German was excellent to deny the Bosnian star. By that time, the former Mönchengladbach goalkeeper was clearly the best player on the pitch for Los Blaugranas. And Barca couldn’t adjust to what Juventus had planned in the initial 20 minutes.
Los Blaugranas broke the dealock shortly before the break
Barcelona improved as the game went on, though. Luis Suarez tested Giangluigi Buffon after a free kick, but the veteran shot-stopper did a good job to put the ball over the bar in the . And a few minutes later, Barca came close to score when Ousmane Dembele took advantage of a defensive mistake to face Buffon one-on-one. The former Dortmund winger wasn’t accurate on his shot, however. The ball went wide when Buffon had no time to react.
All signs seemed to indicate the first half was going to end with a scoreless draw, but Messi had other plans. The Argentinian – who was rather ineffectual during most of the match until that point – found Suarez for a one-two combination, and made the most of it. As soon as he found an inch of space, Messi placed a low shot into an impossible angle for Buffon. The first half was quite even, but Barca jumped to a 1-0 lead seconds before the break.
Lionel Messi’s show continued in the second half
Knowing they were down on the score, Juventus had to play more positive in the second half and came close to equalise quite soon thanks to Dybala, but his effort went sailing above the crossbar. Barcelona wasted no time to reply, however, and Messi came close to double the lead but his attempt from outside the box smashed the post. Messi would keep trying, and the Argentinian ultimately left his mark in Barca’s second goal as he created the play that led to Ivan Rakitic’s strike.
Messi charged down the right, generated enough space, and found the former Sevilla playmaker who was waiting all alone near the penalty box. Rakitic simply placed the ball into the back of the net with ease, as the opposing defenders stood there looking quite lost. Without truly deserving it, Barca built a two-goal advantage, and it seemed Juventus didn’t have enough ideas to turn things around. Messi was quite close to add a third goal, but Buffon parried away a lovely free-kick that went above the wall.
Third goal and game over for Los Blaugranas
Juventus tried to change things during the second half, but they were not successful. Barcelona began to move the ball around as they found all the spaces they couldn’t find during the first 45 minutes, and that complicated The Old Lady. Federico Bernardeschi looked like an upgrade over Rodrigo Betancur, but that wasn’t enough. Because every time Juventus created one chance, Barcelona found enough space to create two of three more.
As such, the third goal didn’t take long to arrive. Andres Iniesta found Messi on a counter-attack, and the Argentinian did the rest. He moved towards the centre of the box, left two defenders behind, and placed the ball in an impossible angle for Buffon. That goal made it 3-0 for Barcelona, and the game was over after that strike.
Okay, not over “per se”. There were a few controversial situations that could have changed the course of the game. Suarez had a goal disallowed due to an apparent offside position. Dybala and Bernardeschi came close to score, but Ter Stegen denied them on both occasions. And Pique committed a huge handball to avoid a goal, but the referee Damir Skomina didn’t call it. The outcome of the match did not change in the end, and Barcelona cruised their way to a comfortable 3-0 win.
If anyone needed another proof of how decisive Messi is for Barca, look no further than this game. The four-time Ballon D’Or winner was directly involved in all of Barca’s three goals, and this further enhanced the idea that Los Blaugranas are one of the top teams in the world as long as the Argentinian international is at his best.
On the other hand, this wasn’t the start Juventus wanted to their Champions League campaign. Even though Massimiliano Allegri had several regulars out through injury, they looked awful during the second half and brutally outmatched after they conceded the first goal. Sporting Lisbon and Olympiakos should be easier than Barca. But Juventus need to improve considerably if they want to avoid problems in the Group Stage.
FC Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Umtiti, Jordi Alba; Sergio Busquets, Rakitic (Paulinho, 77′), Iniesta (Andre Gomes, 83′); Messi, Suarez, Dembele (Sergi Roberto, 70′)
Juventus: Buffon; De Sciglio (Sturaro, 41′), Barzagli, Benatia, Alex Sandro; Matuidi, Pjanic; Betancur (Bernardeschi, 63′), Dybala, Douglas Costa; Higuain (Caligara, 87′)
Goals: Messi (1-0, 45′), Rakitic (2-0, 56′), Messi (3-0, 69′)
Referee: Damir Skomina (SVN)
Yellow Cards: Betancur (25′), Semedo (35′), Messi (54′), Barzagli (61′), Pjanic (75′), Caligara (89′)
Red Cards: None
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