At the Allianz Stadium in Turin on Wednesday, FC Barcelona took on Juventus in the Champions League. Here’s the result, what happened and what we learned from the tie.
Big changes from Ronald Koeman
In the 4-2-3-1, Miralem Pjanic got the nod against his old club while Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann returned to the fold as left and right wingers.
Given suspensions and injuries to Gerard Pique and Philippe Coutinho, youngsters Ronald Araujo and Pedri stepped up in central defense and attacking midfield respectively.
A fantastic early start
All inside two minutes, Lionel Messi, Pjanic and Griezmann had shots on target, with the latter hitting the woodwork.
Pjanic forgot who he was playing for, which almost cost the visitors greatly
Laying the ball into Dejan Kulusevski’s path, Lenglet thankfully cleaned up the mess and nothing bad happened.
Barça were struggling to deal with the hosts’ pressure
Pinned back after a positive opening spell, a lot of passes were having to be made in and around their own box in danger.
Then Dembele spoke
A fantastic ball from one flank to the other from Messi was brought down by the Frenchman. Turning inside and out of a pack of black and white shirts, he let off a shot from 25 yards or so that was deflected and lobbed over Wojciech Szczęsny into the net.
A huge confidence booster for the forward and his team alike, which was a second in the Champions League for them in total and a first since June 2019. In other news, Messi reached 300 career assists.
The lead was almost short lived
Alvaro Morata scoring on Juve’s next break, the ex-Real Madrid striker was ruled offside.
Messi was still chasing his first strike from open play
Linking up beautifully with Griezmann, the back heel lay off the skipper received was hit rather wide past the post from close range.
Dembele was clearly growing in confidence
Slipping by members of the opposition with ease and menacing on every move after his goal, he looked a different player entirely from the shell of a man that faced Getafe in a recent 1-0 defeat.
Later, he had an opportunity to double his account when unexpectedly set up by Messi in the box. Dembele then tried to do Griezmann the same favor on the same break, but the number 7 mishit it.
Morata was disallowed again
Giving Araujo all kinds of trouble, the marksman was ruled out a second time on the half hour mark with his effort. The scoreline stayed as it was.
Leading at half time
His charges managing to nurse their advantage through to the interval, Ronald Koeman had a lot to be pleased about with the rebirth of Dembele taking top billing.
Other positives were the skills and maturity of a Pedri wise beyond his years, a strong showing on the continent from Pjanic and an improved Griezmann.
Negatives however were that they could and should have scored more while Araujo appeared to be injured.
Frenkie de Jong in central defense
Araujo hooked, Sergio Busquets came on into defensive midfield alongside Pjanic while De Jong dropped to the back line for the next 45.
Third time unlucky for Alvaro Morata
A heel offside in front of Lenglet, when converting a bouncing ball that came in from Juan Cuadrado, the former Spain international couldn’t catch a break today through his disallowed hat trick.
Ansu Fati was Koeman’s next change
With Messi edging closer to his much-needed strike, it was time to introduce the decisive youngster at Man of the Match shout Dembele’s expense on 66 minutes.
Barcelona’s finishing had let them down, so it remained to be seen if the clinical youngster could produce something if another chance appeared.
So close from Griezmann
Breaking through on goal thanks to a nudge forward from Messi, the World Cup winner beat the ‘keeper but clipped the post with 15 to go.
Messi got off the mark, albeit from the spot
Fati hacked down by Rodrigo Bentancur approaching stoppage time, captain fantastic bagged his third of the season and second in his favorite competition overall by slotting home the resulting penalty kick.
Barça go home with all three points
Their La Liga form leaves a lot to be desired, but the Blaugrana boast a 100% record on the continent now with a remarkable win over the Italian Serie A rulers.
Perhaps due to Josep Bartomeu’s resignation, Messi appears to be playing with a weight off and it is now Alaves that stand in Barça’s way of turning a corner domestically on Saturday.
Source: Forbes – Business