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FC Barcelona have bowed out of the Champions League with a win in the Czech Republic. It may have been game where neither side had anything more than pride to play for, with the positions in Group C already set in stone, but it nevertheless provided plenty of entertainment, as well as a valuable opportunity for some of the less regular players to get some playing time at the highest level.
Barça were in the driving seat from start to finish, collecting four goals along the way, but that’s not say that they were in complete control. Viktoria Plzen were desperate to avoid finishing their campaign without a point, and potentially the worst record in tournament history, and they managed to make a game of it.
Barça went two goals ahead on three occasions, but on the first two of those, the home side were able to pull a goal back. But they could find no answer to Pablo Torre's fourth, and it all ended 4-2.
So, a fine victory for the Catalans, but sadly that’s it for the UCL this season. Continental football will instead resume next year with a new goal to aim for: the Europa League.
Alonso’s first goal
With Robert Lewandowski not even travelling for this one, Xavi also opted to rest such regulars as Pedri, Frenkie de Jong and Ter Stegen, the latter replaced in goal by Iñaki Peña, who thus made his competitive debut for the club. Marc Casadó would also enjoy his first minutes for the team in the second half.
But that wasn’t going to stop Barça from powering their way into this game and needing just six minutes to take the lead.
Jindrich Stanek failed to get a full hold on Ansu Fati’s shot, and Marcos Alonso was at hand to poke the ball across the line. His first ever goal in an FC Barcelona jersey!
And Barça doubled their lead shortly before the break when Ferran Torres whipped in a Jordi Alba assist. At first glance it may have looked offside, but a quick consultation with the VAR room revealed that Barça were in the clear.
The 2-0 lead at half-time may have looked steady enough, but it hadn’t come without Viktoria making several chances of their own. In the two closest, Tomás Chory headed onto the crossbar and Peña did brilliantly to block Lukás Kalvach in a one-on-one.
And the Czechs did manage to pull one back shortly after the break. Pablo Torre brought down Chory, and the latter made no mistake from the penalty spot.
Barça immediately struck back as Raphinha and Ferran Torres wormed their way through a sea of defenders and the latter poked home his second goal of the night.
Kessie and Torre injured
That made it 3-1, but Viktoria quickly cut the difference back to one goal thanks to a fine header from the immense Chory.
Barça re-established the two-goal cushion with a tremendous finish from Pablo Torre, but the 19-year-old was unable to celebrate his first goal for his club. He hurt himself in the process and had to be stretchered off. Following the game, he would be pleased to confirm that it was nothing but a scare.
However, that wasn’t the only injury concern of the night, and Franck Kessie's could be more serious. The Ivorian was forced to withdraw early with what Xavi confirmed after the game to be a potentially very nasty hamstring injury. However, tests on Wednesday will determine the exact extent of the damage.
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