Barcelona accomplished what was needed to extend their unbeaten run at the Camp Nou in the Champions League and finish the Group Stage without a single loss. They achieved that on the wings of Ousmane Dembele who put the Catalans in the early lead, but his strike was cancelled out by Lucas Moura late in the second half.
It was widely expected that Ernesto Valverde would rotate heavily in what was more or less a meaningless game for Barcelona and that was indeed the case. Jasper Cillessen got a rare Champions League start behind a back-line of Nelson Semedo, Clement Lenglet, Thomas Vermaelen and Juan Miranda. In midfield Ivan Rakitić remained undroppable and played alongside Arthur and Carles Alena. In attack Dembele and Philippe Couinho started on the wings with Munir El Haddadi in the middle.
Even though Barcelona were playing with their reserves, the Catalans still controlled the ball against a strong Tottenham side. And it didn’t take long for the hosts to take the lead after a brilliant solo effort by Dembele. The Frenchman stole the ball in midfield and sprinted right past Kyle Walker-Peters and made easy work of Harry Winks inside the area before calmly sending the ball past Hugo Lloris for the early lead.
Tottenham needed a win to be sure of advancing to the next round of the Champions League, but the English side struggled to get anything going. Their full-pitch press on the ball carrier often caused problems to Barcelona, but in possession the English side created very little. The makeshift Barcelona back-line did its job very well and limited Tottenham to the outside. The first dangerous chance for the visitors didn’t come until the half hour mark when Danny Rose sent a good low ball inside the area, but the pass was just out of reach of Heung-min Son who escaped his marker.
The South Korean forward was in action again two minutes later when Christian Eriksen played Son through. Escaping the challenge of Vermaelen, Son went alone on Cillessen and was looking to send the ball inside the far post, but the Dutch goalkeeper stuck out his left leg and made a great save. In the 38th minute Cillessen would record another save on Son, but this one didn’t offer much of a challenge.
Tottenham’s game was improving and oftentimes they managed to pin Barcelona deep, but Barcelona’s defense held its ground. The occasional Barcelona turnover didn’t help matters, but the hosts were able to keep the clean sheet going into halftime. While Barcelona didn’t create much after the opening few minutes, they spent some time in Tottenham’s third and threatened mightily in the dying minutes of the half. First, Rakitić’s long range shot was saved by Lloris and moments later Coutinho went on a lovely run from the left wing and created enough space in between four defenders to take a shot, but his effort was denied by the far post.
Barcelona came out of the break with a personnel change as Rakitić received some rare time off and was replaced by Sergio Busquets. Tottenham came out with the same eleven and that same eleven needed just two minutes to threaten for the first time, but Cillessen excellently saved Eriksen’s dangerous shot. Two minutes later Eriksen and Dele Alli tried their luck from inside the area, but both shots were blocked by Barcelona’s defense. Shortly thereafter Harry Kane missed high and wide on a breakaway.
The early minutes of the second half did not start the way Barcelona had hoped and Tottenham were constantly buzzing around Cillessen’s area. Barcelona didn’t often cross the midfield line – but when they did they were dangerous as evidenced in the 53rd minute when Dembele created a good chance for Coutinho, but the Brazilian’s shot was blocked. Tottenham’s pressure led to another chance in the 57th minute, but Cillessen once again made a save on Son.
Barcelona appeared to have doubled their lead two minutes later through Munir who made a lovely run to reach Coutinho’s pass, but the goal was correctly ruled out for offside. Both managers made a substitution around the one hour mark. First, Erik Lamela replaced Walker-Peters to signal even more offense from the visitors. Then Lionel Messi joined play in place of Munir.
Tottenham continued to be the livelier of the two sides, even with Messi now on the pitch, but the visitors struggled to solve Cillessen who was having an excellent game and made another brilliant save in the 76th minute, stopping Lucas Moura’s header on the goal-line. Valverde made his final substitution shortly thereafter - Denis Suarez replacing Dembele.
As the visitors desperately needed a goal to secure a spot in the Round of 16 the game opened up and Barcelona were also able to create (half-)chances on the counter attack, but Lloris continued to be mostly a spectator. The Frenchman was called in to action in the 83rd minute, but couldn’t stop Coutinho’s curling effort, however, once again the post came to Lloris’ rescue. Barcelona found plenty of space in attack after Fernando Llorente joined play in place of Winks, but Tottenham’s managed to find the equalizer in the 85th minute after Lucas buried Kane’s low cross.
The visitors would have a chance for the winner in the 89th minute, after Kane found the wide open Rose sneaking up on the left wing, but the left-back fired a terrible shot that missed high. Neither team would create anything in four minutes of added time and with Inter missing out on the win against PSV, both Barcelona and Tottenham earned a spot in the Round of 16. For Barcelona the Champions League will continue in February, who they will face then will become known on 17 December.