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Not every Champions League game is a classic, and the one on Wednesday night in Lisbon certainly wasn’t, but Barça got the job done against a plucky opponent and are coming home with the three points.
Perhaps reflecting the nature of much of the action, Ernesto Valverde's side had a scruffy own goal to thank for a win that leaves them as the only side that’s still unbeaten in Group D.
FC Barcelona and Juventus have always been the clear favourites to progress from this group. But the Lions of Lisbon clearly had other thoughts and refused to be intimidated by the presence of the Catalan giants at the Estádio José Alvalade.
Barça were kept well under control, sometimes even frustrated, for the first 45 minutes. Rui Patricio and his solid defence, including an impressive Jeremy Mathieu up against his former colleagues, were quick to respond whenever the visiting forwards worked their way into positions of danger.
Sporting’s own encroaches into rival territory perhaps lacked the composure and concrete game-plan of their guests, but the chances that fell to Cristiano Piccini and Bruno Fernandes were as close as anything that Barça had produced at the other end.
This was not proving to be an easy day at the office for FCB, but the second half was barely under way when the ball was finally in the back of the net.
At first it looked like Luis Suárez had flicked in Leo Messi’s free kick. But the replays showed that it was another Uruguayan, Sebastián Coates, who had knocked the ball into his own net.
The goal managed to breathe a little life into the somewhat stagnant action, but goalmouth drama was still somewhat hard to come by.
The news that city rivals Benfica were getting a pummelling in Basel was all the home fans had to feel happy about, but Fernandes could easily have got them all smiling again had Ter Stegen not produced a fabulous save on 71 minutes.
And Coates was very nearly at fault for a second Barça goal when a wayward pass right at the end led to Paulinho breaking through on Rui Patricio, but the Portuguese international goalkeeper came to his side’s rescue.
All in all, this was no vintage performance from Barça, but the points are in the bag and that’s now eight competitive victories in a row. Next up in the Champions League is Olympiacos at the Camp Nou on October 18.
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