Barcelona extended their winning run to eight games in all competitions on Wednesday as they edged past Sporting CP 1-0 in their Champions League clash at the Estadio Jose Alvalade.
Ernesto Valverde’s side rarely had to get out of second gear to secure a win that puts them in a commanding position at the summit of Group D.
The only goal of the game came just four minutes into the second half, and despite Luis Suarez wheeling away to celebrate, replays showed that the decisive final touch came from Sporting defender Sebastian Coates.
Bruno Fernandes had a wonderful opportunity to claim a share of the spoils for Sporting in the second half but was thwarted by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, as Barcelona held on for a deserved three points.
The Spanish giants will be confident of extending their lead at the top of the group when they host Olympiacos in three weeks. Sporting, meanwhile, face a daunting test against Juventus in Turin.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) September 27, 2017
The game started at a pedestrian pace with Barcelona’s potent attackers easily kept at arm’s length by a well drilled Sporting backline.
They did get a clear sight of goal in the 15th minute, however, as Suarez whipped a shot over the crossbar when well positioned on the edge of the area.
Cristiano Piccini then saw his fizzing long-range drive tipped over by Ter Stegen before Suarez missed a golden opportunity to break the deadlock. Played in by a typically incisive pass by Lionel Messi, the Uruguayan could only hit his left-foot strike straight at Rui Patricio.
The roles were reversed shortly after as Messi got himself on the end of a Suarez cross, only to head straight at the Sporting goalkeeper.
Messi was then denied a likely opener just before the break when Fabio Coentrao threw himself in front of the Argentine’s goal-bound effort.
Barcelona’s influential playmaker was instrumental in the opening goal just three minutes into the second period.
His teasing free-kick from the right caused chaos in the Sporting box and after bouncing off Suarez’s head the ball ended up in the net via the unfortunate Coates.
Suarez did come close to getting his name on the scoresheet but his drilled shot from the edge of the area was straight down the throat of Patricio.
Ter Stegen then produced a great stop to deny Fernandes an equaliser as Barcelona held on for maximum points.
Key Opta facts:
– Lionel Messi is Barcelona’s top scorer this season in all competitions with 12 goals – own goals are second on that list with four.
– Barcelona have scored in each of their last 26 Champions League group games – the last time they failed to score was in December 2012 (0-0 v Benfica).
– Andres Iniesta made his 100th start in the Champions League (124 appearances in total).
– Lionel Messi lost the ball 18 times, more than any other player in the game.
– Marc-Andre ter Stegen attempted 35 passes in this game, more than Jeremy Mathieu (32) and Fabio Coentrao (15).
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