Barcelona delivered an occasionally dazzling display to defeat Tottenham and maintain their 100-per-cent record in the Champions League, with Lionel Messi scoring twice in a 4-2 win at Wembley.
The home team were somehow still alive until stoppage time when Messi completed the scoring. But there was no doubting the superiority of the Spaniards, for whom Ivan Rakitic struck a stupendous second-half volley, whose progress to the knockout stages now looks close to assured.
In contrast, Spurs have now lost both Group B-matches and need an instant recovery in the imminent double header with pointless PSV Eindhoven.
Here, we pick out three main talking points to arise from the game.
BARCA ENJOY WEMBLEY’S WIDE-OPEN SPACES
If you give plenty of space to Barcelona to play in midfield, you will die.
That’s a pretty simple lesson and one that many teams have learned in the past, so it’s very surprising that Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino allowed his players to grant so much green grass – well, actually brown dust considering the shocking state of the Wembley ‘turf’ – to the visitors.
The double-pivot central midfield duo of the hectic Victor Wanyama and overshadowed Harry Winks were situated just in front of the back four. Nothing wrong with that.
But the problem was that Tottenham’s front four – especially the advanced midfield trio of Lucas Moura, Erik Lamela and Son Heung-min – allowed themselves to be bypassed so easily.
Any team will take advantage of that kind of room, and when you’re talking about Sergio Busquets, Rakitic, Philippe Coutinho, Arthur (more of whom later) and of course Lionel Messi, your chances of escaping unhurt are close to zero.
Despite the apparent closeness of the scoreline, this was at times a severe footballing lesson from the Catalan giants – who passed their way through midfield with remarkable ease.
Two goals against the run of the play kept Tottenham in it, but they need to learn how to better control space if they want to compete with the best.
27 - Lionel Messi has scored more goals (21) and provided more assists (6) against English clubs in the Champions League than against sides from any other nation. Slay. pic.twitter.com/oV8KWr3nHV— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 3, 2018
ARTHUR COMES OF AGE
“He’s just like Xavi!” they said, in excited tones. Just like Xavi? Are you serious?
How can anyone even begin to resemble one of the greatest players in Barca’s history and arguably the finest midfielder of all-time?
But Arthur, upon arriving at the club from Brazilian side Gremio in the summer, was eliciting that kind of comparison from day one.
At Wembley, we saw why. The first hour, in particular, was hugely impressive from the 22- year-old, who showed maturity beyond his years and really did look like a passable version of Xavi as he coolly snaked his way into space in the centre of the field.
Aided and abetted by the equally impressive Busquets and Rakitic, Arthur was able to shake off the attentions of the intensely hard-working opposition and an awful playing surface to play with calmness personified, always seeming to find time and space to release astute and well-judged passes.
He was far less influential in the final half hour, understandably tiring in an unfamiliar environment on his first-ever Champions League start.
But for much of the game he was simply outstanding, and if he can learn to last the pace for a full 90 minutes, Barca appear to have found themselves a very special talent.
MESSI DOES ANOTHER MESSI
How can new words be found to describe Messi? They cannot.
New words would have to be invented to capture his magnificence, so we’ll just have to settle for some old words, even if they can never truly suffice.
This was an outrageous display from the Argentina icon, whose brilliance was perhaps best summed up not by his goals, but by his two shots against the post, from almost identical positions, early in the second half.
Messi has now hit the woodwork nine times this season, and although that appears to be unlucky there is also an explanation: he is so precise with his shooting, aiming unerringly for the very corner of the goal, that he only needs to be out by a fraction and the post will get in the way.
Sometimes, the post is the only thing that can stop him.
But most of the time, as with his two later goals, he prevails in the end.
Two goals from Lionel Messi allowed Barcelona to secure a 4-2 victory at Tottenham and the Argentine is the predictable man of the match in our player ratings.
It was a strong display from the visitors and Messi had plenty of help. Find out who starred and struggled with our player ratings.
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen – 6: Made a magnificent save from Lamela’s deflected cross in the first and had no chance with either Spurs goal.
Nelson Semedo – 6: A curious combination. Some excellent play on the ball and a threat going forward, but looked vulnerable defensively.
Gerard Pique – 6: Had some uncertain moments in line with his recent poor form but stood up to the challenge in the frantic latter stages.
Clement Lenglet – 6: Made a mistake in the build-up to Lamela’s goal, but compensated with a great late block on Moura. Generally solid.
Jordi Alba – 8: Great no-look pass for the opener and completed a hat-trick of assists by sliding precise passes for both of Messi’s goals.
Ivan Rakitic – 8: Rounded off an elegant performance with a spectacular volleyed goal, showcasing awesome technique to strike from distance.
Sergio Busquets – 8: Imperious in the centre of midfield, always finding the right pass despite often coming under heavy pressure.
Arthur – 8: A revelation. Rose to the occasion after a surprise inclusion with a good Xavi impression. Ran the show in the first hour.
Philippe Coutinho – 6: Tidy finish for the opener and had plenty of threatening moments but was often too hasty with his passing.
Lionel Messi – 10: Hit the post twice in three minutes and then got bored of that so decided to score. And then score again. Beyond words.
Luis Suarez – 7: Didn’t get on the scoresheet but worked like a Trojan all night and produced two selfless dummies to tee up Messi’s goals.
Rafinha – 5: Came on for Coutinho near the end but barely had a touch, struggling to adjust to the pace of the game.
Arturo Vidal – 6: Added some muscle to the visiting midfield for the final few minutes as Spurs pressed for a leveller.
Thomas Vermaelen: Introduced at the death to deal with Llorente’s aerial threat and did what he had to.
Hello Barca fans, the Sport360 team is here to bring you the latest on all things Barcelona on Wednesday.
Blaugrana will be in action this evening for a Champions League clash against Tottenham at Wembley as they look to put the disappointment of three straight winless La Liga matches in the rear-view mirror.
3:15pm – Barca make history, beat rivals
Barcelona have set a new benchmark as the Catalan club announced they surpassed the billion dollar mark for revenue, making them the first sports team to do so.
It also means the Spanish giants have beat their rivals, Real Madrid, to the title.
2:05pm – Rakitic fires Wembley warning
As Barcelona return to Wembley tonight to meet Tottenham, Ivan Rakitic has called on his team-mates to replicate the triumph they had at the same venue in 2011, when the beat Manchester United in the Champions League final.
Watch what Rakitic had to say here.
11:40am – Valverde talks up Kane
Ernesto Valverde recognises the danger Harry Kane presents for Barcelona heading into the Champions League tie against Tottenham.
The Barcelona boss spoke highly of the English star, saying: “We expect his best tomorrow and we must try to stop him.”