Barcelona edged Slavia Praha by the skin of their teeth on Wednesday, grabbing a 2-1 win to take command of the UEFA Champions League Group F.
Barcelona took just a couple of minutes to break the deadlock, with captain Lionel Messi scoring from close range a neat exchange with Arthur. But, thereafter, Slavia Praha took the game to their visitors, testing Marc-Andre ter Stegen a number of times, albeit without finding a way past him.
The ter Stegen wall was finally breached early into the second half, when Jan Boril equalised after the hosts had sliced open the Barcelona defence with ease. Minutes later, however, the Blaugrana restored their lead, when Luis Suarez’s poked effort went into the back of the net after some heavy deflection off Peter Olayinka.
The final 40 minutes of the game saw Slavia Praha dominate the proceedings for the most part, but Jindrich Trpisovsky’s charges were unable to get back on level terms for a second time. Following a hard-fought win that sent them to the sole lead of Group F, The Hard Tackle runs the rule over Ernesto Valverde’s men.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 8/10
12 – Marc-Andre ter Stegen has saved 12 of the 13 shots on target he has faced in Champions League this season (92.3%). Colossus. pic.twitter.com/pnnZBHksl2
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) October 23, 2019
It has become a common sight over the course of the season. And, ter Stegen was Barcelona’s saviour yet again, this time standing between the Slavia Praha onslaught and the goal, although he could not have done much to deny Jan Boril.
Over the course of the game, ter Stegen made a staggering 8 saves, which now means he has saved 92.3% of the shots on target he has faced in the Champions League this season. The German wall.
Nelson Semedo: 6/10
By far the best Barcelona defender on the night. Semedo was not troubled nearly as much as the others in the visitors’ backline. Posed a threat going forward as well and was incisive with his passes. But, he failed to keep a track of Boril for Slavia Praha’s goal and should have been more aware in the moment.
Gerard Pique: 4/10
Sub-par would be an understatement as to how bad Pique was on the night. The pace at which Slavia Praha moved the ball left the veteran defender extremely uncomfortable and he just could not manage to find his feet over the course of the game.
The ease with which Lucas Masopust was able to penetrate the Barcelona defence for the equaliser is down to Pique. No harm done in the end, though, with Barcelona managing to edge Slavia Praha, just about.
Clement Lenglet: 5/10
Like Pique, Lenglet had an off night and had ter Stegen to thank for some of his and his partner’s deficiencies. Another who is to be blamed for the goal scored by the hosts, allowing Masopust to get past him with ease. Played it safe with the ball against the face of Slavia Praha’s high pressing.
Jordi Alba: 6/10
Alba did not endure as much of a struggle like the two Barcelona centre-backs did. But, Vladimir Coufal did give him a tough time over the course of the ninety minutes. Not as influential going forward as he usually is. But, he did create a fine chance for Lionel Messi, one that the Barcelona captain was not able to pounce on.
Frenkie de Jong: 6/10
A testing outing for de Jong, for whom the minutes are clearly starting to pile up. While the Dutch midfielder remained Barcelona’s most creative outlet, his passing accuracy was a rather sub-par 79 percent. And, towards the end of the game, it was visible that de Jong is now in need of some rest.
Sergio Busquets: 5/10
Yet again, the resident holding midfielder for Barcelona was not quite at his best, with the quick-passing Slavia Praha overrunning him with ease at times. His passing was crisp, short and accurate. But, Busquets is struggling to set the tempo of the game and might be in for a reduction in his role.
Like de Jong, Arthur suffered from a dip in his performance level on Wednesday. But, when he was on the ball, it looked like he was one of the few players who would make something happen. Linked up well with Messi before setting the Barcelona captain for his goal. However, he also lost the ball in dangerous areas at times, which piled on the pressure on the visitors.
Lionel Messi: 7/10
Just moments into the game, Messi had his name on the scoresheet, becoming the first player to score in 15 successive Champions League campaigns. But, the rest of the game was a bit of a struggle for the Barcelona captain, who did look dangerous at times but was not quite as accurate with his passing as he can be.
Messi boasted a passing rate of 69 percent, which is quite paltry by his lofty standards. On another day, he could have scored a hat-trick, had he not horribly scuffed two shots inside the box, ones that he usually would bury with ease. It is seemingly a gradual return to peak sharpness for Messi, who is well off his best at the moment.
Luis Suarez: 5/10
Suarez had a role to play in the win, with his shot deflecting off Peter Olayinka for the winner. But, other than that, the star striker’s struggles on the road in the Champions League continued against Slavia Praha, messing up a couple of clear-cut chances to put the game to bed. When will the hoodoo end?
Antoine Griezmann: 5/10
As we have grown accustomed to seeing Griezmann perform over the years, the Frenchman was not found wanting for a lack of trying. The big summer signing put in the hard yards and helped his side out on the defensive front. But, in the final third, he did not do much in way of making an impact. Another who needs to overturn his away form.
Ousmane Dembele: 6/10
On for the final 21 minutes, Dembele carried more threat than Griezmann with his directness and pace. But, his end product was lacking, meaning he could not make a difference.
Arturo Vidal: N/A
Introduced in place of Busquets, Vidal struggled against the Slavia Praha onslaught before the arrival of Rakitic helped him see the game out.
Ivan Rakitic: N/A
A late substitution, Rakitic was a pair of fresh legs towards the end of the game.