Royal Antwerp 3-2 FC Barcelona: Late despair in Belgium

Royal Antwerp 3-2 FC Barcelona: Late despair in Belgium

Héctor Fort makes his debut and Marc Guiu's first Champions League goal looks to have snatched a late equaliser, but the home side bite straight back in a frustrating finale

Thankfully it makes no difference to the bigger picture, but FC Barcelona have crashed to a 3-2 defeat in Antwerp.

After going down after just a minute and a half, they mustered an equaliser before going behind for a second time. And despite levelling up in second half injury time, they were then stunned as the Belgians struck straight back with a late winner.

On a day that 17-year-old Héctor Fort got to make his debut, starting the game at right back, and in a game reminiscent of the one with Girona three days earlier, the Catalans dominated without creating much in the way of real chances while the opposition defended well and knew how to take their chances when they arose.

Despite the loss, it would have required something extraordinary for Barça not to end up  as Group H winners regardless, and with Porto beating Shakhtar Donetsk 5-3 in today’s other fixture, the blaugrana eventually finished level on points with the Portuguese side, but have the edge thanks to the better head-to-head record. Click here to learn which teams Barça could be meeting in the first knockout round.


Early error

Conceding first from sloppy goals is a concern that has been bugging Xavi all season, and tonight it happened again. Inside the first two minutes, his side made a mess getting the ball out of defence and gifted Arthur Vermeeren the chance to put the Belgians ahead.

Not only were Barça behind, but they were also struggling to find a reaction. Antwerp were defending well and occasionally threatening to score a second, so it came as a huge relief when the Catalans finally pulled back level.

Ferran on target, but Antwerp strike back

Much of the credit has to go to Lamine Yamal for an absolutely splendid assist, finding the perfect line through the packed home defence to pick out Ferran Torres running through, and the latter made no mistake with the finish.

The goal brought Barça back to life, but although Yamal came within a whisker of becoming the youngest ever goalscorer in the Champions League when he rattled one onto the crossbar, Antwerp seemed to want it more and regained the lead just past the hour mark.

It was another error at the back that allowed Vincent Janssen, who had already had one goal disallowed for offside, to spark celebrations in the Bosuilstadion.

Guiu levels before last minute despair

For a while, a third Antwerp goal didn’t look entirely out of the question, but Barça gradually regained control of the proceedings as they looked to find a way back into the game, with Xavi sending on youngsters Marc Casadó and Marc Guiu to aid the cause.

And it was Guiu who looked to have come to Barça’s rescue by nabbing an injury time equaliser. The 17-year-old powered through the pack to meet Ilkay Gundogan’s free-kick with his head and that was 2-2.

That looked to be it, but there was a cruel twist still to come in this story. Almost straight from the restart, George Ilenikhena found himself through on goal and there was nothing Iñaki Peña could do to stop the Nigerian's finish. Royal Antwerp could finally celebrate their first Champions League win.

A better result would have been nice to recover some of the morale lost in the defeat to Girona at the weekend, but it was not to be. Barça now need to pick themselves up from another setback and ready themselves for a difficult trip to Valencia on Saturday. That one is yet another 9pm CET kick-off.

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