Liverpool player ratings as Mohamed Salah fails to deliver against Barcelona

Andy West 2/05/2019
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Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi were the goalscoring heroes as Barcelona took a firm grip of their Champions League semi-final against Liverpool by winning the first leg 3-0 at the Camp Nou.

But overall this was more of a defensive performance from Barca than an attacking whirlwind, with several men at the back playing key roles.

Find out more in our Liverpool player ratings.

STARTING XI (4-3-3)

Alisson 6. Had few saves to make and had little chance with the three goals, grasping at thin air for Messi’s free-kick.

Gomez 6. Picked for his first start of 2019 and did a solid job defensively, without offering much going forward.

Matip 6. Generally strong, including a goal-saving challenge on Suarez, but could have done better for the second and third goals.

Van Dijk 5. Less than his usual imposing self at the back, shares blame for first two goals.

Robertson 8. Progressive in possession, offering great support to Mane down the left. Great early block to deny Messi.

Milner 7. Offered mobility and grit, and twice came close with including one great chance he should have converted.

Fabinho 6. Kept things ticking over but sometimes struggled to contain Messi’s dribbling from his deep midfield role.

Keita 6. Did plenty of fetching and carrying in midfield, before seeing his evening ended early by injury after 20 minutes.

Salah 6. Gave a regular supply of dangerous bursts, nearly equalising with a low strike, but sent a golden late chance against the post.

Wijnaldum 5. Surprisingly lined up as a false nine forward. Linked play well at times but offered little threat in the middle.

Mane 6. Always looked a threat cutting inside from the left but sent a very good chance late too high in the first half.

SUBS

Henderson 7. Showed excellent passing off the bench, creating his team’s best chance with a great cross to Mane.

Firmino 5. A late entrant after Barca’s second goal, struggled to get into the game as Barca romped home.

Origi 5. Last roll of the dice from Klopp for the final five minutes, had the ball a few times down the left but little impact.

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Barcelona 3-0 Liverpool: Ratings as Lionel Messi runs wild and Clement Lenglet stands firm

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Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi were the goal-scoring heroes as Barcelona took a firm grip of their Champions League semi-final against Liverpool by winning the first leg 3-0 at the Camp Nou.

But overall this was more of a defensive performance from Barca than an attacking whirlwind, with several men at the back playing key roles.

Find out more with our full player ratings:

Ter Stegen 7: Made good diving saves from Milner and Salah, and gave a sense of security at the back with his calm distribution.

Roberto 7: Did a decent job against Mane including a key early challenge. Moved into midfield and helped set up the second.

Pique 8: Initially looked uncomfortable against Mane’s pace, but soon settled into the game and became dominant.

Lenglet 8: Booked for pulling back Salah but otherwise a calm and decisive performance, doing everything well without fuss.

Alba 7: An early threat coming forward, including a wonderfully placed assist for the opener. Did well against Salah.

Vidal 7: Started on the right of midfield before moving to the left. Energetic and powerful but lacking on the ball.

Busquets 8: Back to his best, looking sharp and refreshed. Used the ball well and protected the edge of the area.

Rakitic 6: In and out of the game, struggling to impose himself with the ball but defending with discipline.

Coutinho 5: Warmed Allison’s hands with an early strike, but faded fast after a bright start and was replaced before the hour.

Messi 9: Playing centrally, he was full of running in the first half, scored the second from a yard and conjured an unbelievable free-kick.

Suarez 7: Great finish for the opener and hit the bar to tee up the second. Contributed fully with a hard-charging display.

SUBSTITUTES

Semedo 7: Entered after an hour, forcing a midfield reshuffle. Strong at the back and got forward when he could.

Dembele 4: Gave Suarez a breather with a time-wasting substitution in stoppage time. Missed two great chances.

Alena 6: Another replacement deep inside injury time, coming on for Roberto. Straight into the pace of the game.

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Champions League: Barcelona talking points as Lionel Messi stars but tactics lay foundation

Andy West 2/05/2019
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The final scoreline might have flattered them somewhat, but Barcelona showed a combination of their attacking brilliance and perhaps unexpected defensive resilience as they overcame Liverpool 3-0 to put one foot in the Champions League final.

A stupendous free-kick from Lionel Messi was the highlight moment, but the real key to Barca’s success on the night came further back – partly sparked by manager Ernesto Valverde’s selection strategy, which starts our three talking points from the Blaugrana’s performance.

TACTICAL TWEAKS

The first talking point came before kick-off when, as expected, Barca boss Ernesto Valverde selected Sergi Roberto and former Liverpool man Philippe Coutinho to start ahead of Nelson Semedo and Ousmane Dembele, suggesting he wanted to control the game through possession in midfield rather than penetrating the visiting defence through pace and directness.

However, the home team boss did add some muscle into the midfield battleground by opting for all-action Arturo Vidal ahead of ball-playing Brazilian Arthur. Vidal played on the right of a midfield quartet, with Ivan Rakitic switching to the left of Sergio Busquets alongside Coutinho.

There were pros and cons to those changes in the centre of midfield, with the absence of Arthur’s excellent passing range and coolness under pressure a big miss as Vidal often showed a lack of quality on the ball.

The big plus, however, was the impact upon Sergio Busquets who has been below-par and desperately stretched on many occasions this season but looked like his old self on this occasion, emboldened by the support of Vidal as well as Rakitic. Their presence prevented Busquets from being isolated in front of his back four, and this was one of his best performances for a long time.

Ernesto Valverde

FEISTY SUAREZ STILL POTENT

Over various stages of the season many Barca fans have worried themselves silly over the form of veteran striker Luis Suarez, who has occasionally looked as though his best days are behind him and gone through prolonged periods without scoring.

Every time he has been written off, though, Suarez has responded with a burst of scoring – and that was the case again, with the Uruguayan preparing to face his former team after netting just once in the last five games.

Suarez’s finish to give Barca the lead midway through the first half was a superb strike, much tougher to execute than it looked as he darted forward to meet Jordi Alba’s cross with a touch which was powerful enough to beat Allison but deft enough to be glanced inside the near post. After the ball flew in, there was none of those ‘refusing to celebrate against my former team’ shenanigans, with Suarez instead throwing himself into an impassioned celebration. And he proceeded to show there is plenty of life in the old dog yet, relentlessly chasing down lost causes and serving as his team’s emotional leader by getting embroiled with various heated arguments, before teeing up the second goal with an effort against the crossbar.

Suarez, finished? Don’t be so silly.

Luis Suarez opened the scoring against his former side.

Luis Suarez opened the scoring against his former side.

BARCA DIG IN

With Messi and Suarez at their disposal, the whole word knows that Barca are one of the most devastating attacking forces in football.

But in this game, and especially in the second half, they showed another set of capabilities by digging themselves in for an extensive bout of tough and disciplined defending.

With Liverpool well on top, the home side barely escaped their own half in the first 30 minutes after the break, with the nature of the game perfectly illustrated by Ernesto Valverde’s first substitution as forward Philippe Coutinho was replaced by full-back Nelson Semedo, whose entrance saw Sergi Roberto move into midfield.

Liverpool had three chances to score during that period but Marc-Andre ter Stegen was equal to them all, and Barca’s bend-but-don’t-break defensive approach was generally very successful in keeping the visitors at arms’ length, with the midfield quartet all working extremely hard to protect the back four.

That 30-minute period also had the effect of ensuring Messi and Suarez had plenty of energy in reserve for the final stages, which they used to great effect as Messi scored two goals – one scruffy, the other sublime – to give the Spanish side firm control of the tie.

But that rousing finale wouldn’t have been possible without their defensive excellence between minutes 45 and 75.

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