It was a tough first home Champions League game for Barcelona as the Catalans struggled to overcome a resilient Bayer Leverkusen side. Kyriakos Papadopoulos opened the scoring in the first half, but a late game quick-fire double by Sergi Roberto and Luis Suarez secured Barça their first win of the European season.
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Luis Enrique sent out on the pitch his arguably best available eleven players. Marc-Andre ter Stegen continued in goal for Barcelona, while Jeremy Mathieu again replaced the not-fully-fit Jordi Alba and was joined in defense by Javier Mascherano, Gerard Pique and Dani Alves. The midfield featured the usual suspects but in attack Sandro Ramirez started alongside of Suarez and Neymar.
The game started off in exciting fashion with end-to-end stuff from the first minutes, with the first chance going Bayer's way already in the 2nd minute. Karim Bellarabi dribbled past Pique on the Barcelona left side and sent a perfect ball to the middle to Javier Hernandez who escaped his man to send a strong shot on target. But in the Barcelona goal ter Stegen was able to make a great save, preventing an early Bayer lead.
Barcelona quickly countered with chances of their own. First, Busquets had a free header from a corner kick, but he connected poorly with the ball. In the 6th minute, Rakitić headed the ball on goal, after a Neymar cross, but Bernd Leno made the save. Leno was again called into action four minutes later. Sandro and Suarez played a one-two just outside of the Bayer box, with the latter springing the former into space. Sandro picked his spot, but his spot was hand-level, giving Leno a chance to make a great save, keeping the game scoreless.
The Germans continued to threaten throughout the time Barcelona created their chances, but they were unable to get good looks on goal initially. But that changed quickly, with first Bellarabi firing over the bar from inside the box in the 15th minute. Kevin Kampl was then presented with consecutive chances, but his first went just wide of the far post while the second was excellently blocked by Pique. The visitor's pressure continued and their positive play was rewarded in the 23rd minute when Papadopoulos took advantage of a misunderstanding between Suarez, Mathieu and ter Stegen, heading the ball into the back of the net after an excellently placed corner kick.
The tempo of the game continued to be high, but over the next stretch neither team managed to create good chances, though the visitors continued to look the likelier team to score the next goal. And they came close to doing so in the 36th minute when Bellarabi again danced around Pique and sent a rising close range shot on goal, but ter Stegen was able to palm the ball away, keeping Barcelona's deficit to a minimum.
Two minutes later, Barcelona had their best chance of the game so far to put one past Leno. After a long ball into the box, Suarez and Neymar combined on the left side of the box, with Neymar firing a "seeing eye" shot that bounced off the far post. The rebound fell perfectly to the feet of Sandro who seemed destined to score as the goal was all but unguarded, but his low drive was kept out by a brilliant diving block by Papadopoulos. Barcelona would go on to attack for the remainder of the first half, but apart from a shot from a long range free kick that was easily saved, the Catalans couldn't create much.
Barcelona started the second half on a mission of holding onto the ball and trying to build scoring chances through long attacking plays, rarely giving up the ball. But when they did give it up, Bayer quickly created chances of their own. In the 50th minute Bellarabi again led the visitors on a counter attack, but once again Chicharito couldn't finish off what the German created.
Barcelona quickly counter with an opportunity of their own, with the chance again going Sandro's way, but the youngster yet again couldn't finish the play off. Quickly thereafter, after a brilliant sequence that centered around Iniesta, Neymar had a chance to tie the game, but he too was unable to put the ball on goal. Barcelona's injury woes worsened after that play as Iniesta pulled up and was quickly replaced by Alba. In the 63rd minute Lucho made his second change, replacing the misfiring Sandro with Munir El Haddadi.
In the 65th minute, the Catalans won a free kick 35-yards away. With Messi out of action, Neymar took responsibility for the kick and curled a lovely ball toward goal, but missed the target by mere inches. Pique would also have a chance to change the scoreboard just minutes later, but his close range header lacked power and/or accuracy to beat Leno. At this point Barcelona also completed their last substitution, a surprising one, as Sergi Roberto took the place of Rakitić.
But the sub proved to be a good piece of business by Lucho as Roberto was in the right place at the right time in the 80th minute after Leno was unable to hold on to Munir's shot and the loose ball fell to Roberto who tapped it in. This proved to be just the beginning of the turnaround as Barcelona continued to assert their dominance and just two minutes later the Catalans took the lead. Munir again played a key role, carving up Bayer's defense through the right side before passing the ball to Suarez, who wasted no time and first-timed it into the top left corner of Leno's goal.
Barcelona then quickly went into prevent mode, simply clearing the ball as far away as possible and wasting as much time as possible - and it was enough for the Catalans to secure the win, though in the end the win could've been even bigger, but Munir was unable to finish off a golden opportunity.
Barcelona now return to La Liga action where they have another tough away game on the docket - at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán against Sevilla.
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