Barcelona are off and running in the 2022-23 Champions League and are top of group C thanks to a dominant 5-1 win over Viktoria Plzen at the Spotify Camp Nou in the group stage opener on Wednesday night. The Blaugrana played a brilliant offensive game from start to finish, thoroughly dominated the Czech champions, scored some beautiful goals and took all three points. Oh, and Robert Lewandowski got his first Champions League hat-trick for Barça. Not a bad night.
Barça’s first half performance was about as dominant and in control as the fans could have hoped to watch. The Blaugrana had all of the possession, pinned Plzen inside their own half and created loads of spaces with quick passing and excellent movement from the players, and didn’t allow the Czechs to have any chance to counter attack.
The home team also got an early goal to avoid any anxiety playing against a parked bus as Ousmane Dembélé sent a corner into the box, Jules Kounde won the initial header and Franck Kessie headed home the opener in the 13th minute.
Barça went through quite the scare 10 minutes later when the referee gave a penalty and was ready to show a red card to Andreas Christensen having judged that the Barça defender brought down Mosquera inside the box, but a VAR review clearly showed that Mosquera fouled Christensen with an elbow to the face before any other contact happened, and the decision was thankfully reversed.
Shortly after that the Blaugrana doubled their lead to fully establish control as Sergi Roberto found Robert Lewandowski at the edge of the box and the Pole showed his usual composure and special finishing ability to find the bottom corner with a gorgeous strike to score his first Champions League goal for Barça.
The Catalans could have easily scored another goal and had big chances to do so, but Pedri, Ansu Fati and Dembélé all missed golden opportunities thanks to last-ditch tackles and a big save from the Plzen keeper.
Just as it seemed we were going into the interval with a 2-0 scoreline, a couple of late goals: Jan Sykora scored against the run of play in what was the only meaningful attack from the visitors, but Lewandowski scored an easy header at the far post thanks to an assist from Dembélé to restore the hosts’ two-goal lead.
At halftime, a dominant Barça were deservedly ahead by a comfortable margin but still needed to finish the job in the second half.
Barça didn’t have any trouble in the second half as they continued to show their superiority by dominating possession and attacking time and time again looking for more goals. Plzen couldn’t threaten on the counter, and the home team turned the game into a spectacle for the home crowd with a couple of great goals.
Lewandowski recorded his first Champions League hat-trick for Barça when he received an assist from Ferran Torres and fired a gorgeous curling shot into the bottom corner to make it 4-1, and Ferran completed his excellent substitute cameo with a sensational volley into the net after a beautiful assist from Dembélé to make it five for the home team.
The final 20 minutes were a total cruise for Barça who ran out the clock without any issues while Xavi Hernández gave a few good minutes to Memphis Depay and a Barça debut for young midfielder Pablo Torre, who didn’t do much but still got to experience an European night in front of a happy home crowd.
The final whistle came to end an amazing European night at Camp Nou, and Barça have passed the test of beating the worst team in the group at home with flying colors. Tougher challenges are yet to come in this group stage, but the team looks more than ready for them. And Lewandowski is truly a one of a kind goalscorer. What a player. What a team.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Roberto (Piqué 46’), Christensen, Kounde, Alba; Kessie (Torre 81’), De Jong, Pedri (Gavi 75’); Dembélé (Memphis 75’), Lewandowski, Fati (Ferran 66’)
Goals: Kessie (13’), Lewandowski (34’, 45+3’, 67’), Ferran (71’)
Viktoria Plzen: Stanek; Havel, Hejda, Pernica, Jemelka (Holik 86’); Kalvach, Bucha; Sykora (Pilar 79’), Vlkanova (Cermak 78’), Mosquera (Jirka 79’); Chory (Bassey 66’)
Goal: Sykora (44’)