Barcelona's forward Lionel Messi (C) vies with Juventus' midfielder Miralem Pjanic (L) and Juventus' forward Paulo Dybala during the UEFA Champions League Group D match at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on September 12. -AFP
Barcelona defied an outgoing off-field crisis as another Lionel Messi-inspired display exacted revenge on Juventus to open their Champions League campaign with a resounding 3-0 win on Tuesday. Messi was involved in all three goals as he beat Gianluigi Buffon for the first time in his career to open the floodgates just before half-time. Ivan Rakitic added a second after Messi's run and cross opened up the Juventus defence before the Argentine rounded off the scoring by drilling home his second of the evening 19 minutes from time.
Victory puts Barca on top of Group D alongside Sporting Lisbon, who were 3-2 winners at Olympiakos. Barca's start to the season has been dominated by calls for president Josep Maria Bartomeu to resign following Neymar's world record move to Paris Saint-Germain and the Catalan giants' bungled moves to replace the Brazilian. However, Ousmane Dembele impressed on his full debut following a 105 million-euro ($126 million) move from Borussia Dortmund, as Barca proved as long as they have Messi there is life after Neymar.
"We know that when he gets the ball anything can happen," said Barca coach Ernesto Valverde after his first Champions League game in charge. Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri, though, was less impressed by Messi as he blamed his side's defending for allowing the five-time World Player of the Year too much space to exploit.
"We have to understand that when we play in the Champions League against teams of this level, we have to be aware every minute of the game. Against a different team without Messi, we wouldn't have conceded those goals."
Juventus have also suffered upheaval since the sides last met in last season's quarter-finals as Allegri made six changes from their trip to the Camp Nou just five months ago when a 0-0 draw saw the visitors progress 3-0 on aggregate.
Leave Your Comments