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Barça moved closer to the last 16 of the Champions League thanks to a polished 2-0 victory over BATE Borisov in Group E. A goal from Neymar from the penalty spot in the first half and a strike from Luis Suárez after the breaks, followed by another for the Brazilian were too much for stubborn opposition who are still in with a chance of making it through to the knock out stages despite the defeat. Luis Enrique’s side now just need a draw in their next game at home to AS Roma on 24 November to not only assure themselves of a place in the last 16, but also to claim first place in the group.
Luis Enrique handed a Barça Champions League debut to Thomas Vermaelen and included Andrés Iniesta in the starting 11 for the first time since his return from the injury picked up in Barça’s game at home to Bayer Leverkusen. Marc-André Ter Stegen returned in goal and Javier Mascherano came back into the side after missing the win at Getafe due to suspension. Barça knew a win could send them through to the last 16 but it was not until the eighth minute did they threaten the BATE goal. A typically fleet footed run from Neymar ended with Brazilian being tripped on the edge of the box, but he sent the resultant free kick high over the crossbar.
Rakitic set back
On the quarter of an hour mark, BATE keeper Chernik had to be out quickly after Neymar had been put through by Luis Suárez. Pressure was beginning to build on the Belarusian visitors, Barça were dominating possession and growing ever more confident. Nevertheless, Ter Stegen was called into action after 17 minutes, getting down quickly to his right to turn away Stasevich’s free kick. Luis Enrique was forced into a change just a couple of minutes later when Ivan Rakitic limped off with a calf injury and was replaced by Munir.
The substitute played a key role in the goal that put the blaugranes ahead on the half hour mark, when he wriggled his way into the box and a hand from Mladenovic hauled him down. The Hungarian referee Istvan Vad took his time before eventually pointing to the spot. Neymar took the responsibility, eager to open his account in Europe this season, and with the shortest of run ups sent BATE keeper Chernik the wrong way to give Barça a 1-0 lead. Adriano came close to adding a second as did Neymar with a header just over the crossbar in the dying seconds of a half in which Barça had done enough to justify their lead but not enough to suggest the three points were already assured.
Third to round off win
Former Barça man Alexander Hleb received a warm reception when he entered the fray in the second half and Luis Enrique brought on Marc Bartra for Iniesta and pushed Mascherano into midfield. Bartra’s first contribution came in attack, heading wide from inside the BATE area from a free kick from the Barça right. With eight minutes remaining Luis Suárez returned the favour to Neymar. The Uruguayan broke the offside trap down the right hand side and his unselfish pass took out keeper Chernik and allowed his Brazilian team mate to slide the ball into an empty net for his second and Barça’s third of the evening. That was job done for the home side and although Suárez and Neymar seemed determined to add to their personal tallies, it ended 3-0 to the blaugranes with thoughts now turning to the visit of Roma to Camp Nou on 24 November.
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