Tottenham Hotspur 2-4 Barcelona
As Champions League games go, this was as enthralling as it had always promised to be.
From the first whistle to last, us fans who expected a compelling encounter weren’t disappointed.
And on a night which will live long in the memory of neutrals, the majestic Lionel Messi had the final word.
Highlights of the game
The Champions League 2018 odds favoured Barcelona, and it took just 92 seconds before they had the advantage at Wembley.
Hugo Lloris hadn’t played for over a month, and it looked like the Spurs goalkeeper was in a world of his own in his first game back since their win at Old Trafford late last August.
The French World Cup winning captain came excitedly off his line when he didn’t need to, and the quick-thinking Jordi Alba played the ball into the path of Philippe Coutinho who drilled it into an empty net from 20 yards.
The bunch of home defenders and fans looked stunned as Lloris, trying to sweep up, was left stranded and Barcelona had their dream start.
It was a goal that Tottenham failed to recover from in a first half in which the Catalans oozed class on their return to the scene of their 2011 Champions League triumph.
Barcelona forward Philippe Coutinho celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal during their Champions League match against Tottenham Hotspur
One became two before the half-hour mark as Coutinho pulled the back to Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic, whose 25-yard volley flew past Lloris and in via the post. It was another sumptuous finish, though this time Lloris could not be blamed.
The Spurs were spirited and, had Song Heung-Min’s reply not been disallowed moments later for a handball in the build-up, it may have been game-on.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen also kept out a deflected Lucas Moura cross to further frustrate the hosts, but it was almost game over within seconds of the restart as Messi swept forward with ease and beat Lloris only to see his shot come back off the post.
When the Argentine maestro, unplayable at times, struck the post again moments later, Tottenham were counting their lucky stars.
Incredibly, the hosts found themselves immediately back into a contest when they could easily have been 0-4 down.
Son deceived visiting defender Nelson Semedo and Harry Kane showed his class with an expertly placed finish.
Almost affronted by being pegged back when they were so dominant, Barcelona replied almost instantly.
This time, Messi was third time lucky and not to be denied as Alba cut the ball back, Coutinho and Luis Suarez left it and the No.10 caressed it beyond Lloris.
It was no more than the Catalans deserved.
They were unfortunate when, 10 minutes later, Erik Lamela’s shot took a deflection off Clement Lenglet and looped over Ter Stegen. With that, the topsy-turvy encounter was back on.
Barcelona’s defence may not be half as good as it once was but, led by Champions League centurion Gerard Pique, they were able to keep out the Spurs for the remaining 25 minutes before the brilliant Messi made sure the Champions League 2018 news headlines were all about him.
Ninety minutes were on the clock when the relentless Alba beat home sub Moussa Sissoko to the ball and, after Suarez left the ball, the unmarked Messi made no mistake.
On this form, it’s hard to bet against him and Barca. On the other side, the Spurs have now got their work cut out after back-to-back defeats in Group B.
This was Gerard Pique’s 100th Champions League appearance (with Manchester United and Barcelona).
Lionel Messi has now scored 22 goals in 29 games against English sides.
Barcelona have won their group in each of the past 11 seasons and have reached at least the quarter-finals in all of those UEFA Champions League campaigns, both competition records.
Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde dropped Pochettino, then 34, when he took over at Espanyol in 2006—the Argentine defender ended up retiring as a player shortly afterwards.
Coutinho’s goal was the quickest in the competition since Dutch midfielder Mark van Bommel (36 seconds) for PSV Eindhoven against Olympiacos FC in 2005.
Kane has scored 10 goals in 12 Champions League appearances.
Lamela’s deflected strike was the 8,000th goal in Champions League history.
The Spurs are back in action at Wembley in a few days’ time when newly promoted Cardiff City visit them.
West Ham are their first opponents after the international break before their Champions League group resumes with a trip to PSV Eindhoven.
Barcelona travel to fellow Champions League competitors Valencia in La Liga this weekend and then welcome Sevilla to the Nou Camp after the break. After that, their European combat continues with the visit of Inter Milan.
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