Own goals are Barcelona's second-highest scorers and other things learned from Sporting win

Andy West 28/09/2017
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Barcelona overcame a stuttering display to edge out Sporting 1-0 in the Portuguese capital.

Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez both wasted excellent chances in the opening 45 minutes, but Ernesto Valverde’s side were fortunate to score a 49th-minute winner through Sebastian Coates’ own goal.

Here are three things we learned…

BARCA KEEP GETTING HELP

We didn’t know it at the time, but Barcelona’s season got off to an appropriate start when Real Betis defender Alin Tosca deflected Gerard Deulofeu’s cross into his own net in the opening half of the campaign.

‘Own Goals’ are now Barca’s second highest scorer this season, with Girona duo Gorka Iraizoz and Aday Benitez also getting on the scoresheet for the Blaugrana, whose latest victory came courtesy of yet another own goal – this time from Sporting defender Sebastian Coates.

In fairness, there appeared to be little Coates could have done to get out of the way after a flick from compatriot Luis Suarez bounced off him and over the line from close range, but that freakish rebound did a decent job of summing up the run of luck Barca are enjoying in front goal at the moment.

That kind of fortune surely won’t hold for too much longer, but Barca can enjoy it while it lasts.

UMTITI BOSSES IT

This was a game of few chances and one of the major reasons for Sporting’s inability to fashion clear openings was the superb performance of Barca central defender Samuel Umtiti, who was an absolute rock for the visitors.

Up against Umtiti, the home team’s starting centre forward Seydou Doumbia had no sniff of goal, and when he went off injured it was the same story for replacement Bas Dost, who came second to Lionel Messi in last season’s European Golden Boot award but couldn’t muster a single effort on target on this occasion.

The dominance of Umtiti was nothing new, with the French international greatly impressing since arriving from Lyon in the summer of 2016 and looking capable of marshalling Barca’s back line for several years to come. And, at last, fans can enjoy the sight of something they had been awaiting for many years: a natural heir to Carles Puyol in the heart of defence.

Samuel Umtiti heads clear against Sporting

Samuel Umtiti heads clear against Sporting

VALVERDE THE PRAGMATIST 

Since taking over at Camp Nou in the summer, Barca coach Ernesto Valverde has made several tactical experiments in search of a formula that fits.

At his former club, Athletic Bilbao, Valverde was wedded more or less every week to a 4-2-3-1 formation but he has already shown a lot more willingness to experiment with different shapes for his new team.

In Lisbon, Valverde employed a pretty defensive-minded 4-4-1-1 formation, with Luis Suarez leading the line on his own while Lionel Messi enjoyed the freedom to roam wherever he saw fit. That meant a general lack of attacking flair, with Barca managing just five shots on target all night – and one of those came in the dying stages from substitute Paulinho after an error by Coates.

Other than that chance, Messi and Suarez (two apiece) were the only visiting players to get shots on goal, as Barca looked more concerned with limiting Sporting’s chances at the other end. They did so very successfully, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen only making one real save, and the manner of the victory suggests Valverde will take a pragmatic rather than dynamic approach to big games this season.

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde

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Barcelona ratings as Samuel Umtiti scores an 8, Lionel Messi a 7 while Jeremy Mathieu did himself proud

Andy West 28/09/2017
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Barcelona overcame a stuttering display to edge out Sporting 1-0 in the Portuguese capital.

Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez both wasted excellent chances in the opening 45 minutes, but Ernesto Valverde’s side were fortunate to score a 49th-minute winner through Sebastian Coates’ own goal.

Here is our player ratings…

SPORTING

Rui Patricio 6 – Didn’t have many saves to make but was composed and reliable in everything he did.

Piccini 6 – Embarked upon some good forward runs but occasionally struggled to contain Alba.

Coates 5 – Couldn’t really have done anything about his own goal but looked error-prone with his heavy touch causing problems.

Mathieu 8 – Several timely interventions against his former club. Clearly playing with a chip on his shoulder and did himself proud.

Coentrao 5 – Made an excellent block to deny Messi but had little involvement in general play and was substituted.

Hernandes 7 – Led his team’s attacking challenge, producing some excellent constructive touches, but missed his team’s best chance.

Battaglia 6 – Positioned just in front of his back four but didn’t always protect them particularly well.

Carvalho 6 – Strong, powerful and skilful in the first half, but faded after the break.

Martins 5 – Some flashes of skill but little end product, and often forced onto the defensive by Alba.

Doumbia 5 – Made little impression before getting himself a yellow card for a dive which also saw him injure himself and depart.

Acuna 4 – Very poor. Most of Sporting’s attacking play came down the right and he barely featured.

Jeremy Mathieu competes for the ball with Messi

Jeremy Mathieu competes for the ball with Messi

SUBS

Dost 5 – Came on shortly before the break for Doumbia but was unable to significantly contribute, well contained by Pique and Umtiti.

Cesar 6 – An improvement on Acuna on the left wing but nothing particularly decisive.

Silva 6 – Replaced Coentrao at left-back and looked steady enough.

BARCELONA

Ter Stegen 7 – Only had one real save to make but it was a very good one to deny Fernandes, securing yet another clean sheet.

Semedo 7 – Solid return to Portugal for the increasingly authoritative right-back, who showed attacking intent and defended his wing well.

Pique 6 – Some shaky moments in the early stages but improved as the game went on.

Umtiti 8 – An absolute tower of strength in the heart of Barca’s defence. Nothing got past him or through him.

Alba 8 – Barca’s second-most dangerous attacking threat after Messi. Made several excellent penetrating runs and defended well against Martins.

Roberto 6 – Playing on the right of midfield in a 4-4-2, showed plenty of energy at both ends of the field.

Rakitic 5 – Subdued performance from the Croat, who played too deep to offer an attacking threat and misplaced too many passes.

Busquets 8 – Completed far more passes than any other player and kept his team’s possession game calmly ticking over.

Iniesta 7 – Some wonderful touches, and the universal respect he commands was shown by the standing ovation he received from Sporting fans as he was substituted.

Messi 7 – As always Barca’s greatest source of danger. Disappointed not to have made more of two first-half chances, but delivered a great free-kick for the winner.

Suarez 5 – Had a poor first half but improved after the break and was in the right place to contribute to the winner.

Samuel Umtiti heads clear against Sporting

Samuel Umtiti heads clear against Sporting

SUBS

Paulinho 6 – Came on for Iniesta with ten minutes remaining and helped shore up the defence as well as missing a good chance to make it 2-0.

Andre Gomes and Aleix Vidal. Brief run-out at the end.

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Analysis as Neymar is at slick best but James Rodriguez is garbage in PSG's win over Bayern Munich

Alex Rea 28/09/2017
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Neymar starred as Paris Saint-Germain sent out a statement of intent with an impressive 3-0 Champions League victory over Bayern Munich.

It took PSG less than two minutes to break the deadlock in the Group B clash against Bayern, as world-record signing Neymar teed up fellow Brazilian Dani Alves to hammer home.

Bayern piled on the pressure but failed to take their chances, before Edinson Cavani finished a sweeping counter-attack with an exquisite strike into the top corner.

Unai Emery’s men finished off their visitors in the 63rd minute when Neymar pounced after Kylian Mbappe had bamboozled the Bayern defence.

Here we analyse the performance of Neymar and Bayern Munich attacker James Rodriguez…

BASIC STATS

Neymar

Goals – 1

Assists – 1

Shots – 4

Shots on target – 2

Touches – 78

Key passes – 2

Passes – 43

Dispossessed – 3

Rodriguez

Goals – 0

Shots – 1

Shots on target – 0

Touches – 41

Passes – 26

Key passes – 1

Dribbles – 1

Dispossessed – 3

EFFECTIVENESS

Neymar

No PSG player had more touches of the ball than Neymar and he was also leading the way on shots with Cavani, which gives you a strong indication of his influence.

In truth, Mbappe stole the show but on the counter PSG are absolutely frightening with the French teenager combining telepathically with both Cavani and Neymar countless times.

Alves’ opener was smooth as silk from Neymar as he registered another assist meaning he has more than any other player since he moved to Europe in 2013. He should have scored more than the one, though, his shooting wild at times but in terms of getting PSG on the front foot, he was direct and always a threat.

Neymar and Mbappe celebrate

Neymar and Mbappe celebrate

Rodriguez

Ancelotti opted to play with Rodriguez and Muller as his two wide men in a 4-2-3-1 and to be honest neither provide genuine width in comparison to Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.

The Colombian was operating on the left but you could see his temptation to drift inside repeatedly and he was getting caught in congested areas as a result.

Clearly, he’s far more suited to the No10 role because he looked completely average whenever he did manage to get on the ball. He was brought off at half-time for Kingsley Coman which probably tells you everything you need to know in regards to his imprint on this game.

Alves watches Rodriguez carefully

Alves watches Rodriguez carefully

KEY MOMENTS

Neymar

2nd min ASSIST: Slick stuff from Neymar who incisively cuts in from the right and is allowed to drift inside to weight a perfect pass into the path of Alves who has made a clever run into the box and smashes home the opener.

21st min CHANCE: PSG’s rapid slingshot counters are a feature already and Neymar is slipped in with acres of space but his first touch is careless and Bayern stopper Ulreich can gather the ball. Should have scored.

36th min CHANCE: Simply sublime from Mbappe who gets the ball just on the halfway line, drops his shoulder and accelerates away from Sule, he crosses low for Neymar who delightfully flicks the ball back for Cavani but his effort is tame and Ulreich saves comfortably with his right leg.

49th min CHANCE: Another rapid counter and this time Neymar and Mbappe combine for the latter playing the Brazilian into space but he can’t find his balance he slices horribly wide. Who is there to console him? Cavani.

62nd min GOAL: Neymar on the scoresheet but it’s all about Mbappe. Alves sprints clear from deep, he feeds Mbappe after he intelligently steps in and then out to find space. The teenager completely sells Alba in the box with a dummy and his shot is well saved only for Neymar to pounce on the rebound from yards out to finish.

Cavani congratulates Neymar after his goal

Cavani congratulates Neymar after his goal

Rodriguez

10th min CROSS: The Colombian beats both Verratti and Alves on the left wing and he sprints to the byline before dinking a dangerous cross over Areola only for Rabiot to awkwardly clear for a corner.

19th min SHOT: Does well to tee himself up on the edge of the box and he connects sweetly with a left-footed volley but it takes a slight deflection and goes wide – no corner is given, though.

33rd min CHANCE: Scintillating corner whipped in by Rodriguez and he finds Martinez in space and he has to score but instead directs his header wide.

45th min SUB: Kingsley Coman is brought on at half time in a switch for Rodriguez.

Rodriguez beats both Alves and Verratti to clip in a cross

Rodriguez beats both Alves and Verratti to clip in a cross

VERDICT

Neymar

The Brazilian made the switch to Paris in a bid to further his claim for the Ballon d’Or throne and while he was impressive tonight the stage was all Mbappe’s.

Still, a goal and assist was about what he deserved but in reality he should have scored more with some horribly skewed efforts providing a mixed evening.

7/10

Rodriguez

All eyes were on the 26-year-old and Neymar, the former foes at Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively, but those casting their glance at Rodriguez would have been best to look away.

Not the type of impact a player of that quality and value is expected to deliver in games of this magnitude and he suffered the embarrassment of being brought off at half-time.

5/10

All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com

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