Matchday 3 for the Champions League kicked off tonight for Barca, but with an earlier start time than usual.
6:45 was the start time, hours earlier than usual 9 PM start time for Barca in the Champions League. Nonetheless, Barca still had an important match to play, one that if Barca won, would get them even closer to a goal they’ve failed to reach over the last two seasons.
And that goal is reaching the Champions League knockout stages.
Tonight’s opponent was Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk. With a new manager in place, there was surely going to be some feistiness from the Ukrainian club. But Barca looked to shut all that down tonight, in a battle between 1st and 3rd in the group.
So let’s see how Barca fared.
The first half, or more so the first 15 minutes, were a bit cagey for Barca.
Shakhtar had come out with a lot of aggressiveness in their defensive structure, pressing Barca very tightly whenever the ball was in the Ukrainian side’s final own half. This led to some early turnovers in possession from Barca, which also led to a disruptive flow of the match.
But as the half went on, Barca grew into the match, finding more slick passing combinations and more chances on goal than they ever had during the opening stages of the half.
As a result, Barca began to crush Shakhtar’s neck, but the scoreline remained the same. As Barca couldn’t finish off the few chances they had.
But that changed in the 28th minute, when Barca finally got their first breakthrough.
Ferran Torres scores
In all started with a sneaky run by Fermin Lopez. The youngster made a darting run behind Shakhtar’s back line, meeting open space and a clear goal scoring opportunity. Unfortunately for him though, his arcing shot rang off the bar, but also fortunately for him, it was Ferran Torres who was there to pounce on the rebound and eventually score.
At first the goal was called back for offsides, but it was later given after a lengthy VAR review.
The goals didn’t stop there though, as Barca needed to pile on more to put this match to bed as quickly as possible. Luckily for them, they did just that by relying on the goal scoring prowess from one of Barca’s biggest surprises this season.
Fermin Lopez redeems himself
Fermin Lopez was the one who scored Barca’s second goal, as he used one of his patented long shots to extend Barca’s lead.
What else can you say about the kid? He’s shot himself straight into the first team dynamics and has done nothing but take advantage of the opportunity he created for himself.
There’s a lot to like with Lopez, Barca can only hope he continues his development while also scoring goals just like these.
Once this goal hit, halftime arrived.
All Barca had to do was cruise, find a 3rd goal if possible, and avoid injuries all-together. But as we saw in the second half, Barca couldn’t achieve all three of these.
The second half was a mess.
But not a colossal mess. Barca did concede a goal later in the second half, which sucked all the comfort out of the Montjuic.
Also, Barca saw an injury occur, as it was Joao Felix who had to be subbed off due to some discomfort. Obviously when a player has to be subbed off, it’s concerning more so due to the potential of muscle problems.
We don’t know the full extent of any ailment that’s irking Felix, but with El Clasico days away, it certainly isn’t a good sign.
Barca ended up winning the match, but injuries remain the big concern ahead of the big clash with Real Madrid.
Talk about a tale of two halves.
Barca looked comfortable in the first half, but looked cagey and nervous in the second. A win is a win, especially when you’re dealing with such a major injury crisis like Barca’s situation right now. But boy, you would’ve liked for the club to put this one away so their remaining regular starters could get some much needed rest.
Will say though, what a match for Fermin Lopez. His link up play was fantastic, along with his ball striking. That’s probably the best quality Barca can have right now, as they need more ways to score with so many regulars dealing with injury.
Anyways, onward to El Clasico.
Barca’s next match
Barca’s next match will be on Saturday at the Montjuic.
El Clasico is here.
See you all then!