Barcelona kicked off their Champions League season with a hard fought win against PSV. While the score may be slightly deceiving, Barcelona struggled to create much against the very organized Dutch side. But as PSV opened up late in the game, Barcelona added three goals to their then one-goal lead. Naturally led by Lionel Messi, who scored a hat-trick, the Camp Nou also saw Ousmane Dembele added to his growing season goal-tally.
Both sides started their 2018-19 Champions League campaign in cautious fashion, but slowly and surely Barcelona started to dominate possession. But while the Catalans saw more of the ball, PSV were remarkably resilient in defense, committing just about every player to defense. Barcelona found it difficult to break through the congested lines, though Messi and Philippe Coutinho tried their best to create chances with some beautiful passing.
PSV, on the other hand, were incredibly quick in transition and were able to create by far the best chances of the early going of the first half. The biggest problem for PSV’s attacking aspirations was the fact that none of their four shots taken was on target.
As the first half continued, Barcelona were able to limit PSV’s attacks, but the Dutch side remained dangerous whenever they crossed the midfield line. Barcelona, however, weren’t having much luck on the other side either. The attacking was relentless, but PSV’s defense was up to every single task, clearing all danger without much fuss.
Until the half hour mark that is, when Dembele eluded numerous defenders before being brought down 20-yards from goal for a free kick. In a spot just about perfect for Messi, all fans and pundits knew that if the Argentine strikes it the way everybody expected him to, Barcelona would be celebrating the lead. And Messi did just that, curling the ball over the wall, into the top left corner of goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet who had absolutely no chance of making the save.
Barcelona were quickly back on the offensive, but PSV continued to allow little to nothing to the hosts from open play. The Catalans did attempt a couple of long-range hopefuls, but Zoet was hardly tested before the halftime whistle blew.
Second half began with both sides trotting back onto the field with the same lineups. From the restart, Barcelona were looking to extend their lead, but their frustrations with the organized PSV defense continued. Their frustrations with referee Tasos Sidiropoulos also continued to mount due to the Greek’s seemingly double standards.
But despite all the aforementioned frustrations, Barcelona continued to attack, but didn’t create anything until Coutinho fired a very dangerous shot on goal around the one-hour mark. Even though the Brazilian’s aim was excellent, Zoet was able to make an even better save. A couple minutes later, Marc-Andre ter Stegen was really tested for the first time, but in typical fashion he made a tough save look easy. PSV then attacked again, launching an excellent counter in the 65th minute but a diving block from Gerard Pique prevented any danger.
PSV were pressing, but Barcelona would launch a reply of their own in the 68th minute. Luis Suarez looked to pass through the defense but failed, incidentally creating a chance for himself. With Zoet off the line, Suarez attempted an audacious lob, but was denied by the crossbar.
After Barcelona were able to defend PSV’s little offensive outburst, the Catalans were back on the offensive and in the 75th minute they were finally able to celebrate their second of the match. Dembele received the ball near midfield and went on a brilliant solo run that he culminated with a brilliant finish. Just moments later Barcelona added another. After combining beautifully on the right side, Ivan Rakitić set up Messi who made no mistake from close range.
In the 79th minute, Barcelona took a blow on defense as Samuel Umtiti received his second yellow card of the match, resulting in an early shower. Ernesto Valverde was quick to respond, bringing on Clement Lenglet in place of Coutinho. Two minutes later, Arthur replaced Dembele. Quickly thereafter Barcelona also made their third change as Arturo Vidal took Rakitić’s spot.
Even though Barcelona were playing a man down, the Catalans still maintained the majority of possession. The visitors were pressing high up the pitch, but Barcelona managed to play their way out of danger with relative ease. Not only that, in the 87th minute, Barcelona played their way all the way in front of Zoet’s goal where Messi completed the hat-trick with a well-placed shot.
Five minutes were added on, but with the game already decided, the added time was a mere formality. Now it’s back to La Liga for Barcelona where on Sunday they will take on fellow Catalan side Girona.