Barcelona’s defence gifted PSV chances
From the start of the match, Barca gave the ball away unnecessarily and committed reckless fouls. Such careless play included an early Sergio Busquets foul that lead to a deadly Hirving Lozano free-kick that Marc-Andre ter Stegen was forced to save, Ivan Rakitic giving the ball away to Gaston Pereiro who fired the shot into the woodwork, and a Clement Lenglet challenge that was nowhere near the ball, which resulted in a free-kick leading to two follow-up shots, both of which hit the frame of the goal.
The second half was no different, as Lozano’s early cross that Barca intercepted was only cleared as far as Jorrit Hendrix, who volleyed the ball in Ter Stegen’s direction. Barca seemed resolute in expanding on their long list of defensive errors, as an effort to dribble the ball out from the back saw Lozano intercept, however he was unable to capitalise. It was also a poor night for Ter Stegen, who gave the ball away to opponents in good scoring positions three times. When PSV did eventually score, it came as a result of Gerard Pique’s failure to close down front man Luke De Jong, who headed the ball past Ter Stegen from close range.
Barca’s long record of conceding goals continues, yet it is not as a result of being outplayed. The cause of the issue is poor decision-making at the back, and with many defenders looking stale at the moment, as well concerns over Samuel Umtiti’s fitness, a new pair of legs is desperately needed. The January transfer window cannot arrive soon enough.
But Barca’s attacking lineup is as lethal as ever
Overall, Barca showed quick wit and strong intent when on the attack, despite only kicking into gear later on in the first half. Barca launched some aggressive counter-attacks throughout the match, starting with a Philippe Coutinho effort that was deflected out for a corner. This corner resulted in an Arturo Vidal header that was cleared off the line by Pablo Rosario, and the ball went out for another corner where Vidal yet again had his effort cleared off the goal-line.
Soon after the whistle blew for the second half, Barca burst forward on the counter to provide Dembele with an early sight of goal. This was followed by a low shot from Messi that Zoet parried away. Barca’s wave of lightning-paced counter attacks finally came to fruition, as Messi weaved through a cluster of PSV defenders and beat Jeroen Zoet at the near post, in his latest stroke of genuis.
Barca continued to showcase their threat up front with a second goal from Pique. In what was a move that none of PSV’s defenders could anticipate, Messi lined up for the free-kick and fired the ball low towards the penalty spot, where Pique diverted the ball into the net.
Throughout the match, the Blaugranes’ attacking lineup made the most of the possession they had, and constantly put PSV under pressure. Had the Barca defence pulled their weight and supplied the ball to the midfield more often, we could have easily seen more opportunities on goal. This Barca attack should be more than capable of taking the club to the latter stages of the Champions League this season.
Barca still have the winning mentality
Whilst a good team knows how win by playing well, a great team knows how to win even when they aren’t at their best. This is exactly what Barca did last night, and although it was incredibly frustrating to see Barca make mistake after mistake at the back, the Blaugranes still had what it takes to seal the three points. Messi’s goal came at a time when PSV were camped in Barca’s third, and whilst an ordinary team may have succumbed to the pressure, Barca remained calm and defeated their opponents even with the tide against them, scoring two goals when other teams would have struggled to score even one had they been in Barca’s position.
This match is testament to Barca’s calm temperament, big-match experience, and ability to shift the flow of play in their favour. Should the Blaugranes be timeous in patching up their defensive flaws and continue to exhibit their attacking flair, they should no doubt be in a position to go the distance in this season’s Champions League.