September 30, (THEWILL) – Benfica trounced Barcelona 3-0 at the Estadio da Luz in their second round Group E tie of the UEFA Champions League, with two goals from Darwin Nunez and one from Rafa Silva piling even more pressure on Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman.
Barca has now lost both of their Champions League group stage games this season by the same margin without scoring on both occasions, and the dismal loss will do little to calm the growing number of Barca supporters who want Koeman fired.
With four group games remaining, Barcelona is bottom of Group E with a minus-6 goal differential, four points behind second-placed Benfica.
On Wednesday, Nunez gave Benfica the lead shortly past the two-minute mark, putting Barca on the back foot. Nunez scooped up the ball on the left wing, effortlessly jinked past Eric Garcia, and hammered a low shot past the hapless Marc-Andre ter Stegen into the bottom corner.
Benfica should have gone ahead two minutes later with the visitors stunned, but Roman Yaremchuk’s one-on-one effort was saved by Ter Stegen, who mirrored the low strike.
Barcelona’s greatest chance to equalize came from Frenkie de Jong, who blasted his first-time shot wide at the near post in a rough first half that saw Gerard Pique hauled out for 17-year-old Gavi as he looked set for a second yellow card.
In the 53rd minute, Benfica should have doubled their lead. Ter Stegen made the unusual decision to sweep up a long pass that Nunez easily got to ahead of him, but his effort came off the post with the goal gaping.
However, Benfica did extend their lead, and it was Rafa who put the final touches on the game. Ter Stegen parried Joao Mario’s long-range attempt into the path of the Portuguese attacker, who turned the ball home with the outside of his right foot.
Sergino Dest left up a flailing right arm inside the penalty box, making the night much worse for Koeman’s inexperienced team, who had not registered a shot on target all evening. It went to VAR, the spot-kick was granted, and Nunez tucked the ball into the bottom corner to ensure that Barca’s Dutch manager would have a nightmarish evening.
Given Barcelona’s dismal financial condition and an abundance of mediocre defenders at his disposal, Koeman may have been unfairly chastised this season. After all, Barca is still unbeaten in the league.
However, a 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich in their Champions League opening at the Nou Camp did not go over well, and this result will be viewed as an even worse shame. Barcelona were defensively disorganized throughout a match that they were largely expected to win, if not comfortably, and Koeman’s decision to put on three adolescents to try to address the situation was perplexing.
Barcelona finishing the game with ten men and no shots on target against a Portuguese club that had to go through two qualifying rounds just to play them is a huge letdown from one of the world’s most prestigious football clubs. By Barcelona’s standards, being bottom of Group E with a minus-6 goal difference after two games is abysmal, and calls for Koeman’s dismissal will continue to rise this week.