Barcelona remain perfect in the Champions League group stage after two games following a 2-1 comeback victory in Germany against Borussia Mönchengladbach. The Blaugrana needed two second half goals from Arda Turan and Gerard Piqué to win after struggling throughout the match, but facing such a good team in a very tough atmosphere, the Catalan giants will celebrate the three points regardless of the quality of performance.
Possession: Gladbach 29.6% - Barcelona 60.4%
Shots (on target): Gladbach 8 (1) - Barcelona 11 (8)
Offsides: Gladbach 1 - Barcelona 2
Fouls: Gladbach 8 - Barcelona 10
Corners: Gladbach 2 - Barcelona 5
Yellow Cards: Gladbach 0 - Barcelona 3 (Neymar, Piqué, Mascherano)
Luis Enrique made a surprising selection in his starting lineup, choosing to play Paco Alcácer in place of Lionel Messi, with Arda Turan and Rafinha Alcântara, who were most likely to start, on the bench. Enrique wanted presence in the box and set up his team on a diamond formation, with Neymar playing in front of the midfield three as a creator for Alcácer and Luis Suárez.
Barça had possession for most of the half, but struggled to find any spaces due to a combination of very good marking from Gladbach and poor passing in the final third from the Blaugrana, who had only one true chance in the first half-hour when Neymar found himself free in the box and took a weak shot right into the hands of Yan Sommer.
Gladbach were happy to concede possession and hit Barça on the counter, and being the best counter-attacking team in German football, Borussia were naturally very dangerous whenever they countered with their three main attackers (Raffael, Stindl and Hazard). Mahmoud Dahoud was immense in the first half, and he created the first goal of the match almost all by himself, first stealing the ball from Sergio Busquets, running alongside Raffael on the counter, and then playing a perfect pass to Thorgan Hazard, who scored a tap-in to put the hosts in front.
Luis Suárez had a very good chance almost immediately after Gladbach's goal with a great volley from a Ivan Rakitic cross, but Sommer was prepared and saved the shot to keep Gladbach in front going into the first half.
Luis Enrique came back from halftime with the same team from the first half, but after watching his team struggle again, he made a quick change when Rafinha replaced Paco Alcácer, and the Brazilian looked much better and made a good impact on the Blaugrana, who began to dominate the game and looked closer to an equalizer as the minutes went on.
Arda Turan came on in place of Rakitic to add more flair and attacking intent to the side, and the Turkish made a great impact, making a smart run to the box, receiving a very good lobbed pass from Neymar, and firing a rocket past Sommer to the top corner to tie the game for Barça. Arda looked confident and the goal helped calm the rest of the team down, and the Catalans were really in control, playing some good football at times. It wasn't great, but it was enough to force Gladbach into defending very deep, and Borussia didn't have any real chances on the counter for the rest of the game.
But Barça still needed a game-winner, and it came. A corner-kick from Neymar found Suárez alone in the box but the Uruguayan shot the ball right at Sommer. The Gladbach keeper failed to control the ball, however, and it fell to the right foot of Gerard Piqué, who put himself in front of his defender, took one touch to control the ball and then scored the second to put the Blaugranes in front.
After taking the lead, the Blaugranes went into control mode, keeping possession for the majority of the final minutes and patiently waiting for the clock to run out. In the end, a poor overall performance, but an acceptable one given the atmosphere and the quality of Gladbach's team in the game. The most impressive thing about Barça wasn't the football, but the character. The Catalans never stopped fighting, kept chasing the result and got with true determination and grit. This "never say die" attitude was missing from the side before Lucho came in, and had Barça played this badly a few years go, they would've lost without putting too much of a fight. In this one, they fought hard.
Beautiful Barça didn't win, Warrior Barça did. And a victory is a victory after all.