SAN FRANCISCO, October 28, (THEWILL) – French winger Ousmane Dembele and Argentine maestro Lionel Messi were on target as Catalan giants Barcelona defeated 10-man Italian powerhouse of football Juventus 2-0 in their UEFA Champions League Group G clash at the Allianz Stadium.
It was Barcelona’s first game since ex-club President Josep Maria Bartomeu announced on Tuesday that he along with the club’s board of directors were resigning. If it had any impact on the players, it didn’t reflect on the game.
Barca twice came close to taking the lead inside the opening two minutes. Juve keeper Wojciech Szczesny was sharp to paw away ex-Juve midfielder Miralem Pjanic’s powerful drive before French forward Antoine Griezmann lashed against the post from 10 yards.
Consequently, the Blaugrana were rewarded for their bright start in the 14th minute. Dembele’s shot from outside the penalty area looped over Szczesny after taking a significant deflection off Federico Chiesa, the Italian centre forward.
Morata was unfortunate not to get his name on the score sheet as he saw two efforts ruled out either side of Messi dragging wide at the other end after some smart play from Griezmann.
Szczesny was kept in his toes to deny, first, Dembele and, then, Griezmann in quick succession as Juve – who had just two shots in the opening 45 minutes – contained Barca to a one-goal lead at the interval.
10 minutes into the second period and Morata completed his unwanted hat-trick of disallowed goals when his close-range finish was again chalked off after a VAR check.
Any hopes of Juve salvaging a point in the tie went up in smokes late on when Turkish defender Merih Demiral picked up a second caution for a late challenge on Pjanic.
When Italian right winger Federico Bernardeschi hacked down substitute Ansu Fati, the ref awarded the visitors a penalty. Messi ensured Barca went home with all three points, slotting home from the spot.
There were glimpses of brilliance and coordination in the Barca game to show that they are moving in the right direction. The game data showed the Catalan giants made 227 more passes than Juve and enjoyed 59 per cent of possession in a dominant display.
Juve once again missed the presence of their talisman, Ronaldo. They inexplicably failed to have a proper shot on target and in so doing, missed the opportunity to win their 100th Champions League game.
Rather, it was Messi, in imperious form, who scored what was his 70th goal in 74 Champions League group games. He provided his 35th assist in the competition. He also made five key passes – none of his team-mates managed more than one.
Juve next travel to Spezia on Sunday hoping for a return to winning ways after two consecutive Serie A draws. Barca visit Deportivo Alaves a day earlier in LaLiga with the aim of bouncing back from their home defeat to Real Madrid in El Clasico.