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With several of the big names either injured or rested for this game, this was chance for some of the less regular members of the squad, including no fewer than three debutants, to shine. And shine they did. On a bitterly cold night in the Ukrainian capital, the young guns secured passage to the last 16 of the Champions League for an incredible 17th consective season, and did so in impressive fashion.
Following a dull first half everything clicked after the break. It was a joy to behold ... and if this was night for these players to impress the boss, it was not a chance squandered. Ronald Koeman will have a lot to think about after this game – and in a good way. Options he clearly has aplenty.
It is Barça’s hectic fixture list that brought about the changes. Koeman admitted pre-game that La Liga is the most pressing concern right now, hence the very unusual look to his starting XI. With Leo Messi and Frenkie de Jong not even on the flight, and the likes of Ousmane Dembélé, Antoine Griezmann and Jordi Alba on the bench, this was a chance for the less regular players.
Indeed, the average age of the team was 24 years and 206 days, Barça’s youngest line-up in the competition since 2011 and seventh youngest ever, including Oscar Mingueza covering for the injured Gerard Piqué in the middle of defence – and looking remarkably composed in his first ever senior appearance.
More young blood was sent into the fray later in the game. Brazilian Matheus Fernandes came on for his first senior appearance, Riqui Puig made his European debut, and for the final minutes we also got to see Konrad de la Fuente become just the second man from the USA to play first team football for Barça.
And with none of the four captains on the field, it was Ter Stegen who donned the captain’s armband.
Trying in vain
So many changes, but the passing game was as exquisite as ever. Barça were governing the midfield, aided by their Ukrainian opponents concentrating mostly on sitting back and looking for chances on the counter – and very rarely finding them.
It was not for lack of attitude that Barça weren’t finding real chances, but the sparks weren’t igniting over the final third and a largely uneventful first half ended without score.
Here come the goals!
The insistence that hadn’t paid off before the break was finally rewarded after the restart. Francisco Trincão started it. Martin Braithwaite continued it. And in snapped Sergiño Dest to bang in his first goal for Barça – and also the first ever for a US citizen!
It was no less than this youthful Barça deserved. And with the momentum now very much with them, they quickly doubled their lead.
Mingueza rose to meet a corner and deftly nodded it to the post where Braithwaite was waiting to slot home his first goal of the season – and curiously also Barça’s first from a set piece.
The same player would soon be adding another goal to his account. Dynamo keeper Bushchan saved his original shot but Braithwaite had received a shove in the back. The Dane himself took, and converted, what had been a clear penalty. That was 3-0, and well and truly put this game to bed.
There was time for one more, this time from a more familiar source. Riqui Puig opened the move with a pass to substitute Jordi Alba, whose back pass was met by Griezmann to fire home low and hard and into the net. 4-0. Spectacular performance. Onwards and upwards. Força Barça!
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