Barcelona have taken a giant step to a place in the Champions League Final thanks to an amazing 3-0 victory over Liverpool at Camp Nou in their semifinal first leg. The Blaugrana were awesome in the first half, had to suffer for a while in the second, but Lionel Messi put a team on his back and led them to a huge win. Nothing is decided since Liverpool are really strong at Anfield, but Barça go into next week’s game in amazing position.
The first 45 minutes can be described in any word: intensity. Both teams were hungry for the jump, pressing each other high up the pitch and passing their way out of the press, and the action was up and down as both sides tried to create chances. Barça were better in that department, thanks to a very active Luis Suárez and a hungry duo of Philippe Coutinho and Lionel Messi moving constantly and attacking the Liverpool back four.
And the Blaugrana drew first blood: after a nice possession sequence down the left wing, Jordi Alba played a beautiful low cross and Suárez got in between Joel Matip and Virgil Van Dijk to beat Alisson and give Barça the lead against his old club. The Reds nearly equalized a few minutes later, but Sadio Mané wasted a pretty good chance.
The final 15 minutes were extremely physical, with both teams fouling and nearly fighting each other. Lionel Messi was as feisty as we’ve seen him after a couple of bad challenges, and referee Björn Kuipers was glad to blow the final whistle as he had a tough time calming everyone down.
At halftime, a crazy game gave us a chance to breathe, and Barça were in good shape to get the win.
Liverpool made a fantastic start to the second half, and Marc-André ter Stegen made two unbelievable saves to stop James Milner and Mohamed Salah. Ernesto Valverde’s reaction to Liverpool’s pressure was to bring Nélson Semedo in place of Coutinho, which at first looked like a bad decision that would only invite the Reds to attack even more.
That is indeed what happened: Liverpool owned the possession and camped themselves in the final third, and Barça looked more and more vulnerable as time went by and they could not figure out a way to control the game again. And just when things started to look bad, Messi made a run through the defense, the ball bounced around the box, Luis Suárez hit it with his knee against the crossbar, and Messi found himself in front of an open net to double the lead.
The second goal was a boost of energy for the home team, who started to press again and enjoyed a nice few minutes of possession. The defense was allowed to breathe, and Messi turned into That Messi: running at the Liverpool backline and causing all sorts of problems, and then he won a free-kick and fired a curling rocket into the top corner to make it 3-0 and put Barça in position to get a huge win.
Liverpool had a giant chance to get a big away goal, but Roberto Firmino’s shot was cleared off the line by Jordi Alba and Salah hit the post against an open net, and Barça dodged a big, big bullet. The Reds continued to attack in the final minutes as they desperately searched for a goal, but Gerard Piqué was a monster in injury time and made sure that his team kept a clean sheet.
Ousmane Dembélé missed a golden chance to make it 4-0 and end the semifinal in the last play of the game, but that won’t take anything away from a magical night at Camp Nou. Barça played amazing at times, suffered at times, but the GOAT got it done. It was a Champions League semifinal at its finest, and this team is amazing.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Roberto (Aleñá), Piqué, Lenglet, Alba; Vidal, Busquets, Rakitic; Messi, Suárez (Dembélé), Coutinho (Semedo)
Goals: Suárez (26’), Messi (75’, 82’)
Liverpool: Alisson; Gomez, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Milner (Origi), Fabinho, Keita (Henderson); Salah, Wijnaldum (Firmino), Mané