Barcelona registered an impressive 4-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur in their Champions League Group B clash at Wembley on Wednesday. The Catalan giants started the game in emphatic fashion when Philippe Coutinho found the back of the net in the second minute following a poor decision from Hugo Lloris that presented the visitors with an opening.
Ernesto Valverde’s men benefited tremendously from the early goal and continued to grow in confidence before Ivan Rakitic extended their lead through a sublime volley supported by outrageous technique and the upright on its way to the back of the net. Barcelona were miles ahead of Tottenham at the end of the first-half and headed into the interval with a two-goal advantage.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men responded positively after the restart and were handed a lifeline when Harry Kane pulled a goal back in the 52nd minute after Lionel Messi was denied by the woodwork twice at the other end. However, the celebrations were cut short just four minutes later when Messi deservedly bagged his first goal of the night to restore Barcelona’s healthy two-goal cushion.
Spurs refused to give up hope and their persistence finally paid off in the 66th minute when Erik Lamela halved the deficit to give life to a spellbinding finish to the high-octane encounter at Wembley. The hosts came close to restoring parity in the dying embers of the game but were eventually caught when they tried to play out from the back and Messi, who was arguably the best player on the pitch, bagged a brace in the 90th minute to put the result beyond any doubt.
#1 Erratic start from Hugo Lloris breathes new life into Barcelona
Hugo Lloris would not have enjoyed his return to action with Tottenham Hotspur when he made a shocking error that led to the opening goal after just 93 seconds on the clock. The Frenchman decided to come out of his line, in what proved to be an erratic decision, and was caught in no-man’s land when Philippe Coutinho sent a powerful shot to break the deadlock on the night.
There was no need for Lloris to come off his line to deal with the situation and his negligence cost Tottenham dearly as Barcelona punished them like most teams would do at this level. The early goal helped the visitors settle down quickly and pegged back Spurs as they succumbed to the early onslaught of possession from Barcelona.
After all that has been happening off the pitch in recent weeks for Lloris, the last thing he would have wanted was a poor start during his return game and it is safe to say that things did not go too well for him at Wembley.
#2 Tottenham bereft of options, ultimately make a game out of it
Tottenham Hotspur were without the services of several key first-team players in the form of Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Mousa Dembele and Jan Vertonghen but still managed to look promising albeit in patches during the second-half.
The hosts were completely outplayed by Barcelona during the first 45 minutes but responded well to the challenge after the interval and displayed tremendous character to put the visitors under pressure in the final 20 minutes or so.
Despite having key absentees across various departments, some of the fringe players including Erik Lamela and Harry Winks stepped up in the latter stages to try and salvage something from the game for the hosts. Barca were undoubtedly the better side on the night but Spurs deserve credit for the show they put on for neutrals, even when bereft of options due to injuries.
#3 Lionel Messi takes centre stage at Wembley yet again
Lionel Messi returned to Wembley in a Barcelona shirt for the first time since their triumph over Manchester United in the Champions League final back in 2011 and he highlighted the occasion with an astonishing performance. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner was head and shoulders above everybody on the pitch and it almost seemed like he was unplayable on the night.
Tottenham struggled to keep him quiet whenever they stumbled across his sheer brilliance and were caught out on a number of times courtesy of the little magician from Rosario. Perhaps it is safe to say that they wouldn’t have come across any individual brilliance of this standard in recent memory and Messi capped off yet another impressive display with two goals to his name.
The Argentine could have had even more goals if he was not denied by the upright during two different instances in the second-half and proved to be the real difference between the two sides at the end of full-time.
#4 The alarm bells are surely ringing for Spurs in Group B
This latest loss to Barcelona means Tottenham have now lost both of their opening group games in a European competition for the first time in the history and the result leaves them in dire straits as far as Group B is concerned.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men are yet to open their account this season and are already playing catch up to both Barcelona and Inter, who are level on points after winning both their games so far in the competition. The north London outfit are in desperate need of results to try and boost their credentials for qualifying to the knockout stages and it is safe to say that they will have their task cut out if they are to achieve the same.
Tottenham will face PSV Eindhoven in their next game in the Champions League and nothing short of a win will keep them alive in the competition considering the fact that they already have plenty of ground to catch up.
#5 Barcelona yet to show any signs of European complacency
Prior to Barcelona’s visit to Wembley on Wednesday, the mood surrounding the camp was perhaps not the best considering their worrying run of form in the league over the last couple of weeks. Ernesto Valverde’s men, who comprehensively won the league title last year, had dropped seven points in the last six days while proving to be largely uninspiring and lacklustre during that barren run of form.
The idea behind splurging the cash on a number of players during the summer and strengthening their squad is to challenge for the Champions League title in a more engaging manner than last year and Valverde has made it a point that he intends to take the competition more seriously this year with his rotation policies.
It hasn’t quite worked out well for Barcelona whenever they have rested key personnel in the league games so as to facilitate smooth sailing in their European adventures so far this season but their Champions League campaign is heading in the right direction. The Catalan giants have been one of the most impressive sides in the competition so far and could even be considered as early candidates for the title at the end of the season after their compelling win over Tottenham away from home.