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UEFA Champions League Review: FC BATE Borisov vs. FC Barcelona

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FC Barcelona played their second game of the Champions League group stages tonight, away to FC BATE Borisov of Belarus. BATE'S home stadium was deemed to small for a European game so the match was played at Stadyen Dynama in Minsk. Barcelona came out in their customary 4-3-3 formation while the Belorussian outfit chose to adopt the more conservative 4-5-1.

Lineup's were as Follows:

FC BATE Borisov (4-5-1): Aleksandr Gutor; Maksim Bordachev, Yegor Filipenko, Marko Simic, Aleksandr Volodko; Renan Bressan, Edgar Olekhnovich, Dzmitry Baha, Filipp Rudik, Artem Kontsevoy; Mateja Kezman

FC Barcelona (4-3-3): Victor Valdes; Daniel Alves, Carles Puyol, Javier Mascherano, Eric Abidal; Xavi, Seydou Keita, Thiago Alcantara; Pedro,Lionel Messi, David Villa

The match was characteristic of past matches between Barcelona and opposition from eastern Europe, with BATE adopting a completely defensive approach that distorted their shape from a 4-5-1 into a formation reminiscent of a 9-1. For the initial stretch of the game the usual patterns developed, Barcelona dominating possession and BATE waiting to disposes them and counter-attack. However, BATEs defensive fortress was unraveled by one of their own players on 19 minutes. Barcelona's Dani Alves delivered a cross from the right to the far post where Messi was waiting to pounce on the ball but, it never reached him. BATE's own Aleksandr Volodko pushed the ball into his own net as he struggled to shrug Messi off, 1-0 Barcelona had the lead.

With their defensive plan unraveled BATE did not attempt to attack for an equalizer and instead chose to continue defending in the hopes that a lucky break would bring them back level. This plan backfired surprisingly quick as Barcelona were once again monopolizing possession and wasted no time in inflicting more damage on a BATE still reeling from the own goal. In minute 22, Villa received the ball on the left side of the box and lobbed the ball over the defense to Pedro, who had beaten his marker and was in behind the BATE defense. Rodriguez made no mistake with his header which flew over Gutor and into the net, 2-0 Barcelona. Within in a span of two minutes Barcelona practically had the game won.

The misery of seeing their defensive plan in tatters was not over in this half for BATE as Barcelona where eager to add more goals to their tally. Gutor, BATEs keeper, was visibly shaken from the two minute onslaught and this proved costly on minute 38. A harmless cross was delivered into the box from the right, Gutor seemed to have controlled it only to inexplicably let it go free on a bounce. It was a terrible mistake to make around Lionel Messi, who doesn't forgive such errors. Messi made BATEs keeper pay for his error as he headed the ball into an empty net before it could return to Gutors hands. Barcelona cruised for what remained of the half as BATE where still defending resolutely and the bluagrana enjoyed a three goal cushion. The half ended 3-0 to Barcelona, but there was a sense that there would be more goals in the second half since Barca were so overwhelmingly dominant.

The second half saw BATE reconsider it's approach to the match and they began to dedicate more men to attack but it was to late to reverse the results. The game was beyond a doubt by the third goal and with BATE now spreading out to attempt to get back into the match, Barcelona had an easier time finding spaces. On minute 56 Barcelona at last found the space to craft one of their usual scoring chances. Dani Alves was finally able to reach BATEs area after Messi recovered the ball from midfield. Alves waited a few seconds till Messi arrived at the penalty spot before passing to the Argentine. Once the pass was made, Messi shot first time into the roof of BATEs goal, 4-0 Barcelona. With this goal Messi equalled Ladislao Kubala's record of 194 goals for Barcelona in all competitions.

BATE at this point realized that this result way firmly beyond them and simply chose to play as they normally would in the hopes of getting a goal for their honor. Barcelona would not allow such condolences and remained resolute in defense and attack for the remainder of the half. After Messi's goal Barcelona took their final three changes to attempt to take some time off the clock which still read 30min to play. Fabregas came on for Xavi, Adriano for Abidal, and the final change was Maxwell for Pedro. With the half coming to a close the game seemed destined for a 4-0 final score but BATE again gifted Barcelona a final opportunity which Barca took. In the 90th minute, Villa was called offside and duly gave the ball the a BATE player. In their hurry to restart, BATE gave the ball away to Maxwell who passed the ball between the defensive line for Villa to run onto. Villa latched onto the ball and shot underneath the diving Gutor to add to the scoreline, 5-0. Barcelona thus finished off the remaining seconds and the final whistle was called.

In the end FC Barcelona won by a Manita. Barcelona are now second in group H behind AC milan. Their next match in the group stages will be against FC Viktoria Plzeň on October 19th at home in Camp Nou.

BATE Borisov 0-5 Barcelona Goals Highlights HD 28/09/2011 (via 2012LigaBBVA)

Visca Barca!

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