A match report and summary of Barcelona’s 2-1 victory over Dynamo Kyiv in the Champions League group stage matchday 3/6.
Against a depleted Dynamo Kyiv at Camp Nou, Culés expected a lot from Barça. In the first half, Ronald Koeman’s side didn’t show nearly enough of a response after the Alavés draw.
Koeman himself went with a rather bizarre eleven. The Dutch manager rested Clément Lenglet and deployed Frenkie de Jong at centre-back while a front four of Pedri, Antoine Griezmann, Lionel Messi and Ansu Fati would complete the squad. A surprising double pivot composed of Miralem Pjanic and Sergio Busquets would, along with Sergiño Dest’s inclusion complete the team.
Barcelona started on the strong foot, steamrolling a decimated side. The Catalans got an early lead via Messi, who suffered a big foul in the area. La Pulga scored his penalty and put his side in front. Despite scoring, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner was far from his best, and Barça suffered from it. Ansu Fati’s magic in the box then led to Griezmann missing in front of an open net. The attack did a decent job, especially the two teenagers. Pedri’s shot, after a superb Messi pass, crashed on the crossbar while the winger’s attempts ended in the goalkeeper’s hands.
Lionel Messi scoring his goal from the spot | Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images
Despite dominating, the Culés looked a bit shaky at the back, and Marc-André Ter Stegen made some big saves. First with his foot from a cross in the box. Then, a splendid save from his forearm after a great header from the Ukrainians.
The hosts kept playing like a Diesel and got a few decent chances. For Koeman, however, it wasn’t the best showing ever, especially with the everlasting finishing problem. Barça should’ve been leading by more, and the Dutchman has to find solutions quickly. Nonetheless, this first half looks way better than the one in the Basque region on the weekend. Despite conceding a few chances, the Blaugranas were switched on from the start, and it was much more of a team effort.
First-half: Barcelona 1-0 Dynamo Kyiv
A snoozefest. This second half is perhaps the worst under Koeman since he took over. No intensity from Barça, too many chances gifted to Dynamo, and a big thank you to Ter Stegen. At half time, Koeman could’ve shaken up those players, but they did not seem like changing their mentality whatsoever.
Mircea Lucescu’s side scored at the start of the half but VAR ruled the goal because the cross went out of bounds. The first scare of a torrid half for Barça. Frenkie de Jong, perhaps not too accustomed to the centre-back position, made a few mistakes at the back. Ter Stegen bailed the Dutchman, and the whole defence many a time. The German, looking confident, stopped many one-on-ones and frustrated the opponents to death.
For Barcelona, their attack was too dull once again. They created chances and tried to shoot from distance, as portrayed by Ousmane Dembélé towards the end. Nevertheless, every Barça attack ended with the keeper making a save or nearly everyone. After stopping a Messi free-kick and a header from Sergi Roberto, Ruslan Neshcheret had to concede, and he did. It was Gerard Piqué, linking up with a cross from Ansu Fati, who doubled the lead. Barcelona were cruising in front without upping the tempo in the second half.
Viktor Tsyhankov celebrating his goal | Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images
After making changes, Koeman’s side would concede to a devastating counter-attack. Ter Stegen, although having a hand on the initial shot, couldn’t save Victor Tsygnakov’s effort. After that goal, the Ukrainians suffered a bit, and Ousmane Dembélé deserved much better. The Frenchman’s effort from range came in vain when the Ukrainian in net saved it. Dembélé had a good cameo, where he tried to give more life to the game.
Victory or not, Koeman has to change many aspects of the plan. The team can’t give as many chances to a better team as they did today. The squad also has to switch on for 90 minutes, and not lapses of time. Overall, however, that makes it nine points from nine in a superb start in the Champions League for Koeman. On Saturday, the Culés have to show much more intensity and win by a more significant margin to get back to winning ways in the league.
Full Time: Barcelona 2-1 Dynamo Kyiv
3 things we learnt from Barcelona 3-0 Elche — A one-man attacking unit
On the back of a two-game winless run, which saw Barcelona mauled at the hands of PSG as well as drop points against Cádiz in the Camp Nou, the Catalans recorded a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Elche in the Nou Camp. Thanks to a brace from Lionel Messi and two assists from Martin Braithwaite, third-placed Barça kept up the pressure on their rivals up top.
It was, in many ways, a game of two halves for the hosts. In the opening 45 minutes, they struggled to generate any real chances on goal, and if not for a mistimed effort from Lucas Boyé, they easily could have been a goal down. Overall, a poor showing from the hosts in the first period.
Following a few structural changes from Ronald Koeman, the team’s shape improved and thus too their propensity to win. Elche were far more open defensively than in they were in the first half, and searching for blood, Barcelona took advantage of the slightest of spaces to punish their opponents. Their second-half performance should serve as a confidence boost ahead of their crucial league tie away at Sevilla this weekend.
1. A weary Messi seals all 3 points
Despite having scored a brace and played a large part in the creation of the third goal, Lionel Messi was far from his usual best for a large chunk of the match. Either due to a lack of motivation or fatigue due to the tight fixture schedule, his passing was off, and he lost plenty more balls than he usually would.
Following Ronald Koeman’s tactical adjustments, most notably with the entry of Ousmane Dembélé following Miralem Pjanić’s exit, the Argentine was a far more liberated figure in attack. By partnering up with Martin Braithwaite centrally, he became much more involved in play as he had all of zone 14 to himself.
Two minutes after the restart, he opened, scoring off a phenomenal backheel assist from the Dane and sealed his brace with a moment of individual brilliance as he slots the ball home past a helpless Badía. As the cherry on the top of the cake, La Pulga played a delightful dink into the Barça number 9, who then set up Jordi Alba for the third and final goal.
Even at 75% capacity, Messi was the best player on the pitch. His presence on the pitch, as always, was invaluable to the side.
2. Pjanić seals his fate
Miralem Pjanić has often been the first to complain about a lack of game-time, perhaps under the impression that there is a supposed conspiracy against him by the Barcelona manager. Offered an opportunity to prove himself against one of them minnows of La Liga, he once again proved to the Dutch manager precisely why he sits out so many games.
His first half was one of his individual worst in a Barcelona shirt, and possibly his most lethargic performance in years too. Tasked with playing in the pivot role, the Bosnian was meant to act as an anchor from which the team could find balance, but rather than give it, he took it away.
Either due to a misplaced pass, poor positioning, slow and poor releases of the ball — or all of the above —, barely anything went right for the 30-year old. Despite having periods in which his influence was helpful, many other actions he made took their toll on the team, and so much so that he had himself withdrawn from the team at the break.
It is rather unfortunate that he played in such a woeful manner, as given the sheer magnitude of Barcelona’s next three or four games, a good performance here could have earned him a spot. He did seal one, though, on the dugouts rather than on the pitch.
3. Back to midfield dominance?
Despite a myriad of problems under Ronald Koeman, the midfield has gradually taken back the importance bestowed upon it by legendary managers from Johan Cruyff through to Pep Guardiola. While Miralem Pjanić was a far cry from what one would call exceptional, his replacement in Sergio Busquets with 30 minutes to go as well as the two interiors in Pedro González and Frenkie de Jong were absolutely sensational.
When it comes to this Pedri, next to anything seems possible. On the night, bar his usual creative duties, the 18-year old was all over the pitch. As an artist with a paintbrush, his actions were skin to streaks of acrylic on a canvas to form the most majestic artwork. He desired to get as involved as he could with as many individuals as possible, also making up for others whenever in need. His pressing game was through the roof, as despite being designated the right halfspace, he was more than open to helping out up forward and out wide too.
As for De Jong, he reverted to his new-usual self. Contrary to the old, more conservative yesteryear version, the Dutch midfielder was a constant threat to the Valencians’ defence through his unmatchable dribbling and in-game awareness. Through his differential dexterity in this particular trade, he attacked the holes that Elche would leave behind, and it was in this was that he quite brilliantly set up Messi for his second of the game. Quite a commendable performance from him.
While nothing more than a cameo performance, Sergio Busquets offered all that Pjanić couldn’t and more. It seems as though he is gradually returning to his former self, with yet another exemplary performance. With him, ball circulation was a notch faster, and with it at his feet, there was a prevalent sense of security that could be sensed with every pass to and from him.