Barcelona overcame some testing moments and a one-man disadvantage against Hungarian champions Ferencvarosi to prevail 5-1 in their opening Champions League group game on Tuesday night.
Ferencvarosi started the game the better of the two sides. However, the match firmly swung in favour of the hosts when Lionel Messi opened the scoring in the 27th minute from a penalty all of his own making.
With the game’s scruff of the neck firmly in his grip, Messi picked up the ball by the halfway line before slaloming through a host of white-shirted bodies into the box, where he gratefully accepted the offer of a lazy, outstretched leg and tumbled to the ground.
Barcelona’s new-found dominance after taking the lead ultimately led to their second goal on the cusp of half-time through a deserved but rather crudely finished Ansu Fati volley. Ronald Koeman’s side were even better after the interval, firing the ball between one another with a swagger which was justifiably rewarded with a third from Philippe Coutinho in the 52nd minute.
Gerard Piqué added a layer of doubt to proceedings when he hauled Tokmac Nguen to the ground inside the area with a little over 20 minutes to play, conceding a penalty and earning a red card. Igor Kharatin converted coolly.
The electric burst of pace from second half substitute Ousmane Dembélé created the opening for Pedri to get his maiden Barcelona goal in the 82nd minute and ease the tensions which had been tentatively growing. Dembélé then got on the scoresheet himself with one minute of normal time remaining to put an added layer of gloss to the slightly flattering scoreline.
Neto (GK) – 7/10 – In Marc-André ter Stegen’s continued absence, the Brazilian shot-stopper came off his line as well as his injured German teammate and couldn’t do much about the spot kick.
Sergi Roberto (RB) – 6/10 – A constant outlet high and wide on the right, Roberto was rarely used, more often than not acting as a decoy for the impressive Francisco Trincão.
Gerard Piqué (CB) – 3/10 – Looked as if he would be in for a tough evening against a fleet-footed Nguen from the opening 20 minutes. Yet, after the danger seemed to have fizzled out, Piqué was forced to use illegal means to stop Nguen in the second half which led to his dismissal.
Clément Lenglet (CB) – 6/10 – Looked worryingly sluggish when Ferencvarosi played any ball into the gaping channels either side of him early in the first half. But produced a number of key blocks after Piqué departed.
Sergiño Dest (LB) – 5/10 – Never once threatened to turn onto his clearly inferior left foot, making his performance rather one-dimensional. The America international was penned back after switching flanks in the second half as Barcelona shortly went down to ten men.
Miralem Pjanic (CM) – 7/10 – Kept things simple when needed and pushed high alongside his fellow double pivot to pen Ferencvarosi into their final third.
Frenkie de Jong (CM) – 7/10 – From his favoured position as one of the double pivots in a 4-2-3-1, De Jong collected the ball from his centre-backs and kept Barcelona’s play ticking over. Ansu Fati’s shinned finish may have been fortunate but there was no luck involved in De Jong’s delicate dink perfectly arced into the 17-year-old’s path.
Philippe Coutinho (AM) – 7/10 – Floated menacingly in the tantalising pockets of space between the lines, the Brazilian gave the keeper the eyes for a clever finish at the near post. Coutinho was the player sacrificed when Piqué was dismissed.
Francisco Trincão (RW) – 8/10 – The 20-year-old Portuguese international will haunt the nightmares of his opposite fullback Eldar Civic after a hugely impressive Champions League debut. As well as effortlessly bypassing his man on either side, Trincão also showed a refreshing willingness to track back, all that was missing was a goal.
Lionel Messi (ST) – 8/10 – Before the match, Koeman admitted Messi’s performances ‘could be better’. The Argentine number ten responded with more than just his second goal of the season but with an outing that harked back to the innumerable displays of unparalleled close control and effortless bewitching dribbles.
Ansu Fati (LW) – 7/10 – If there had been a heavy slice of good fortune when Fati sliced in Barça’s second goal, it was all silk and skill with his delicate, rolled assist for the game’s third strike.
Ousmane Dembélé (RW) – 8/10
Pedri (AM) – 8/10
Junior Firpo (LB) – 6/10
Ronald Araújo (CB) – 6/10
Sergio Busquets (CM) – 7/10