Barcelona returned to winning ways with an exciting 4-2 win at Wembley against Tottenham. Philippe Coutinho opened the scoring early before Ivan Rakitić added to Barcelona’s lead. The two sides exchanged goals in the second half with Harry Kane and Erik Lamela scoring for the hosts and Lionel Messi adding a brace to his first-round hat-trick.
After a string of bad results, Barcelona could not have hoped for a better start against Tottenham, with Coutinho opening the scoring in the 2nd minute, scoring Barcelona’s fastest Champions League goal since 2005. Lionel Messi created the play with a brilliant through ball to Jordi Alba. With Hugo Lloris inexplicably leaving his line, Alba calmly played the ball back to the Brazilian who from the edge of the area didn’t miss the unguarded net.
Barcelona continued to control the pace of play, but the injury plagued Tottenham slowly started to show some life. But despite their recent problems in defense, the Catalans were able to keep Tottenham’s attacks at bay.
Sergio Busquets remained down and in pain in the 22nd minute after a sliding tackle to get the ball from Lucas Moura. It appeared that a substitution would be necessary, but after some treatment the midfielder was able to continue. Three minutes later, the hosts fired their first shot on goal, but Harry Kane’s long range effort was easily handled by Marc-Andr ter Stegen.
Even though the hosts were proving they can be dangerous, Barcelona remained the better of the two sides. And in the 28th minute Barcelona doubled their lead. Once again Messi started the play with an over the top ball to Luis Suarez who headed the ball into the path of Coutinho. The Brazilian tried to finish but saw his try blocked before showing quick reflexes to prevent the ball from going out of play and instead sending it to the edge of the area. There Rakitić ran onto the ball and powered a brilliant half-volley in-off the post.
Three minutes later, Tottenham came closest to scoring their opener. Launching a quick counter, Erik Lamela sent a dangerous cross into the area from the left side where it deflected off Nelson Semedo on goal. Falling down, ter Stegen somehow managed to stick out his arm and not only make the save, but also controlled the rebound and didn’t allow a second opportunity.
Barcelona’s control of the game continued and it was a very refreshing sight as Barcelona’s recent games left much to be desired. The pretty much new-look Barcelona midfield was clearly up for the task as the two Barcelona midfield regulars were as solid as usual, while Arthur was making plays that made Barcelona fans reminisce of a certain midfielder that has moved on to Qatar.
Barcelona started the second half with conviction, but after five minutes all they had to show were two shots to the post by Messi on nearly identical plays. Both times Messi started the run on the right side before working his way into the middle from where he fired on goal, both times beating Lloris, but both times being also denied by the post. The Catalans were quickly made to pay for the game of inches as Kane brought the hosts within one with a lovely strike from inside the area.
The Catalans responded quickly, restoring the two-goal lead in the 56th minute when Alba sent a lovely ball into the area that found Messi. This time, despite being incredibly unlucky earlier, the Argentine made no mistake and found the back of the net. But the hosts were not giving up, bringing the game back within one ten minutes later. Lamela found some room to operate outside of the area before firing toward goal. Ter Stegen appeared to have a beat on the ball, but a slight deflection off Clement Lenget left the diving German with no chance and Tottenham were once again in it.
With eleven minutes of regulation left to play, Mauricio Pochettino already completed all three chances, while Ernesto Valverde didn’t make his first until the 83rd when Rafinha replaced the scorer of the fastest Barcelona away goal in the Champions League, Coutinho. Immediately after the substitution, Tottanham had an excellent chance to level at three, but Lucas was denied by a last-ditch Lenglet block.
The hosts were pressing hard, hoping for a different result they had against Inter in the first round of Champions League play. Meanwhile, Barcelona were adding some muscle to the midfield where Arturo Vidal took the place of Arthur, who had arguably his best game in Blaugrana colors.
With time running out for the hosts, Pochettino sent everybody forward and Barcelona made them pay for their open play in the 90th minute. Alba forced the deep turnover and sent a useful ball to the edge of the area. There, Suarez let the ball go past him to a wide open Messi – who has probably never been as open on the football pitch as he was on this play. One-on-one with Lloris, Messi showed incredible patience, waiting for the goalkeeper to commit before sending the ball the other way to restore the two goal lead.
The added time was a mere formality now and Valverde quickly used the remainder to give Busquets some late rest and replaced him with Thomas Vermaelen. Added time passed without much excitement and Barcelona maintained their perfect run in Europe. La Liga is now back on the docket for Barcelona where the Catalans desperately need a win against Valencia to restore some order in the domestic league.