Barcelona progressed into the Champions League knockout stage as group winners by cruising past a hugely disappointing Borussia Dortmund at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night.
First-half goals from deadly duo Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi sent Barca on their way to victory, before Antoine Griezmann added a third and Jadon Sancho grabbed a scarcely deserved consolation for the outclassed visitors.
The hosts never really had to get out of second gear as the German side tamely rolled over and died as soon as they went behind, but there were still some big talking points to emerge from the game – including another miserable night for a former Dortmund player.
DISAPPOINTING DEMBELE SIDELINED AGAIN
Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde sprang a couple of surprises in his team selection by opting for Ousmane Dembele ahead of Antoine Griezmann on the left flank, and also giving the lesser-spotted Ivan Rakitic his first start in this season’s Champions League in midfield.
Dembele’s latest chance to impress was short-lived, however, as he limped off with just 25 minutes played after appearing to land badly contesting a cross into the box. The former Dortmund forward had seen a fair amount of the ball in those early stages without finding meaningful end product, and the overall impression created by the former Dortmund winger’s brief outing – a flurry of poor final passes followed by yet another injury – must be seriously testing Valverde’s patience once again.
Griezmann took advantage of his opportunity from the bench, capping a bright display with a well-taken goal, and with Dembele set for another place on the sidelines there is surely one less selection dilemma for Valverde ahead of a huge upcoming showdown: Griezmann, it is now almost certain, will be a starter for Sunday’s trip to his former club Atletico Madrid.
MESSI’S 700 UP IN STYLE
The game saw Lionel Messi make his 700th senior appearance for Barca and, to the surprise of absolutely nobody, the home team captain rose to the occasion with yet another decisive contribution.
Firstly Messi teed up his best buddy Luis Suarez for the opening goal with a beautifully cushion first-time pass after latching onto a half-clearance on the edge of the box, and within minutes he doubled the lead himself by firing decisively into the bottom right corner after Suarez returned the favour with a well-placed through ball following a dreadfully misplaced pass from Mats Hummels. Messi then set up Griezmann for the third goal with another perfect pass, before coming close to a fourth with a wickedly struck angled free-kick which crashed against the bar.
In addition to all that, Messi also slid through Suarez for a goal which was disallowed for offside, warmed visiting keeper Roman Burkl’s hands with a fierce drive, created a good chance for Griezmann with a clever flick, made two astounding dribbles through the defence which came close to creating shooting chances and sent a towering header (yes, towering header) just wide.
Just another day at the office. Like the previous 699.
AWFUL DORTMUND IN THE DOLDRUMS
Dortmund boss Lucien Favre started with what looked like a negative starting eleven, with wingers Jadon Sancho and Thorgan Hazard both left on the bench while Real Madrid loanee Achraf Hakimi and Nico Schulz – better known as full-backs – lined up in midfield.
The conservative strategy only looked like bearing fruit in the very first minute, when a terrible pass by Ivan Rakitic allowed Hakimi to race down the right and cross for Schulz, whose half-hit shot was blocked.
Other than that early flurry, Dortmund never looked like creating much and they were also constantly vulnerable at the back, with Messi breaking through the visiting defence seemingly at will and Suarez repeatedly finding space in and around the box.
The feeble manner of Dortmund’s capitulation, especially the way their heads dropped after Suarez’s opener, will be greatly concerning to Favre, who knows that his team will only advance to the knockout stages if Inter Milan slip up against Barca in the last group game and they overcome Slavia Prague at home. On this evidence, that looks far from certain – as does the future of their manager.
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