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The players made it very clear in the build-up to Tuesday night's Champions League opener that it was not about revenge. There was no score to settle against the side that put them out of this competition last season.
But beating La Vecchia Signora, and doing so in such convincing fashion, will have left an especially sweet taste in their mouths. And yet another stellar performance from Leo Messi makes that taste all the more delicious.
Some might say that a season at Barça is never quite under way until that Champions League anthem has been played over the Camp Nou PA system. Those magnificent notes were finally aired on Tuesday evening and with a top-quality side like Juventus as the guests, this was always going to be a lively encounter.
The first five minutes hinted that we’d be getting a night of Barça’s attack, with Ousmane Dembélé getting his first start, versus the Juventus defence.
But no. The Italians, despite missing several regular starters to suspension and injury, were not here just to sit back and speculate. The chances were soon flowing for both teams. Miralem Pjanić and Rodrigo Bentancur both came close to dampening the high spirits in the Catalan capital, while at the other end 39-year-old Gianluigi Buffon displayed lightning reflexes to tip Luis Suárez’s strike over the bar.
The Messi show begins
Although we’d witnessed football of the most exquisite quality, it looked like we were heading into the break without any score. But despite being uncharacteristically quiet for the first 45 minutes, Messi had other ideas.
The Argentinian had been waiting for his chance to make an impact, and following a deft one-two with Suárez, he was finally into space. Not much space, but Messi doesn’t need a lot to wield his magic.
He coolly slotted the ball home and the home fans suddenly had plenty to smile about as they tucked into their half-time refreshments. 1-0.
A goal to the good, Barça started piling on the pressure after the restart. Messi pounded one onto the post, and moments later (quite possibly rifled after receiving a yellow card) he went on the rampage down the right. His shot was cleared off the line, but only as far as Ivan Rakitic … the Croatian converted with composure and that was 2-0.
It was turning into the Leo Messi show, and there was more to come from the greatest player the game has ever seen. On 69 minutes, the No. 10 was on the receiving end of a counter attack and twisted one way and another on the edge of the Juve area before picking his moment to strike.
He placed it impeccably. No chance for Buffon. And the Camp Nou crows raised their arms in unison in honour of its footballing deity.
Suárez had a potential fourth of the night ruled out after 79 minutes. If the provider of the assist, Jordi Alba, had been offside then it was by the very narrowest of margins.Kiev is still a long, long way away, but this was a truly wonderful start to Barça’s Champions League campaign. Força Barça and bring on the next game!
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