FC Barcelona strolled to a comfortable 4-0 win over Belarusian side BATE Borisov in their final group game. Sergi Roberto got the ball rolling for this youthful Blaugrana side before second half goals from Pedro (2) and Martin Montoya ensured that Barcelona ended the group stage on a high. Next up? El Clasico at the Bernabeu.
El Clasico was on everyone’s mind, with Pep Guardiola fielding a completely different XI from the one that beat Levante 5-0 at the weekend. In amongst that line-up was Thiago Alcantara, Isaac Cuenca, Maxwell, Pedro and Jose Pinto, but aside from that, it was a team made up of B team players. Nevertheless, the playing style was exactly the same.
Settling into possession immediately Barcelona strung about 30 passes together culminating in a shot for Rafinha Alcantara. In fact, that pretty much sums up the entire first half! Barcelona kept possession with an alarming ease, but they perhaps lacked that cutting edge and then the finishing instincts to go with it. Rafinha displayed great determination to run from deep and meet a cross with a powerful header, although his effort went well over.
Then he combined well with his brother Thiago, who fed him a pass on the edge of the area, and Rafinha turned well. However, he shaped up as if to curl the shot past the BATE keeper and then sent the shot straight at him. Barcelona were upping the tempo, and the right-wing was proving too much for the Belarusians.
Martin Montoya was operating well on the overlap, and his low cross picked out the run of Sergi Roberto, but the young midfielder slid the ball inches wide. Thankfully he would not waste his next chance. Thiago was pulling the strings in midfield and his attempted pass to Pedro was cut out and the chance fell to Sergi Roberto. This time the midfielder did what he does best, passing the ball into the bottom corner for the lead.
Barcelona didn’t make any changes at the break, but they did crank up the tempo further, much to BATE’s dismay. Sergi Roberto turned provider for Pedro, threading a pass through the legs of a defender and Pedro turned, feinted a shot to the far corner only to drill the ball just wide at the near post. He was improving, and he would get his reward very soon.
Rafinha was impressing, and he displayed a typical Barca trait, pick-pocketing a BATE defender and setting up Sergi Roberto. Roberto could not finish the chance, but it was an industrious effort from Rafinha to even set up that effort. Andreu Fontas had a goal ruled out for offside just a minute later; before Pedro forced a finger-tip save with an attempted lob. BATE were getting visibly tired, Barcelona were working their way through the gears.
Marc Muniesa was brought on for Jonathan Dos Santos and that heralded a change to the 3-4-3 where the chances really started to flood in. Cuenca was at the forefront of everything dangerous and his run created the space for an overlap from Montoya. Then he picked out that run with a through ball and Montoya clipped the ball over the on-rushing keeper to double the Blaugrana’s advantage.
It was only the hour-mark, but BATE looked ready to go home. Cuenca compounded their misery further with a low cross from the right-wing and Pedro finished it off with an audacious back-heel. Simply sublime from Barcelona and Pedro in particular. The game looked to be heading for a comfortable end before Cuenca again surged into the box, but was brought down for a penalty kick. Up stepped Pedro for his second of the evening and that surely puts him in contention for a starting spot in the XI for El Clasico...
All in all, just another day at the office for FC Barcelona, breaking two records en route to a comfortable win. Now the Blaugrana hold the record for most consecutive games with a goal in UEFA competitions (28) and for total goals in the group stage (20).
Man of the Match is undisputedly Isaac Cuenca. Three assists for the winger, although he is unlikely to start at the Bernabeu. However, if he does, I am sure no-one will complain!
Next up is obviously El Clasico and until then ¡VISCA EL BARCA!