UEFA Champions League

FC Barcelona 5-0 Royal Antwerp: Joao Felix scores a brace as Catalan giants run riot against UCL debutants Antwerp

FC Barcelona has defeated UEFA Champions League debutants Royal Antwerp FC with a humongous margin of 5-0 last night at their new home, Estadi Lluis Olimpic as the La Liga giants kickstart their Champions League group stage with an emphatic statement win. New recruit from Atletico Madrid Joao Felix scored a brace for the Blaugranas, as he seems to be having fun in Barca colors.

Barcelona reigns supreme over Antwerp

FC Barcelona has been undoubtedly one of the best teams in Europe this season, owing to their exploits in the domestic La Liga which sees them on a second spot, closely behind leaders Real Madrid. For the last few years, Barca manager and former legend in the Barca colors, Xavi, have had a wretched record in the European elite as they had failed to qualify for the knockout stages in two consecutive seasons, thus he wanted to change the history this time. In desperate times, Barca had won La Liga last season with five games to spare, thus cementing their spot at the top of league table, and patiently waited for the Champions League draw.

When the draw was announced, they were comparatively placed in a easier group than last two seasons, which comprised Belgian debutants Royal Antwerp FC, Portuguese side Porto and Ukrainian heavyweights Shakhtar Donetsk. Yesterday, Barcelona and Antwerp locked horns at the Montjuic, in a game which was supposed to be a rout for Barcelona, as they were facing minnows Antwerp, who are playing at the European elite for the first time since 1957, with former Spurs man Toby Alderweireld ending their 65-year long hiatus from the Champions League, by scoring a stunner in their last game which helped them to qualify for the coveted competition.

A strong line-up for both teams

Both Barcelona and Antwerp would look to kickstart their campaign as they had fielded their strongest eleven, with both teams gearing up for a fierce encounter. Xavi had been instrumental in his team’s changes, as he had opted for his traditional 4-3-3 formation with Lewandowski, Raphinha and new recruit Felix spearheading the frontal attack. They were closely supported by seasoned midfielders De Jong, Gavi and Champions League winner from last season with Manchester City, Ilkay Gundogan. The defense was the strong force of Barca as they opted for Kounde, Balde, Christensen and New star Joao Cancelo, with reigning Zamora trophy winner Ter Stegen on the goal.

For Antwerp, former Barca player Mark Van Bommel opted for a sole striker position, as he strengthened his defensive duties, as he went with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Janssen as the only attacker up front.

Felix opens his UCL account

Joao Felix, the latest Portuguese recruit from Atletico de Madrid has been undergoing a dream transformation in Barca colors, after being loaned from fellow rivals, as he opened his Champions League account for the Catalans last night, when he scored a flashy goal on the 11th minute, to star proceedings for the La Liga champions. Just like other goals in recent days for Barca, this shot was a reward of the impeccable passes in the midfield, who have been proving instrumental in this season. A beautiful passing combo was responsible for the goal, which finally ended with an Ilkay Gundogan assist to Felix, and the Portuguese was smart enough to slot past opponent keeper with a low shot at bottom corner, thus opening his European account, and leading Barcelona’s goal fest 1-0.

Lewandowski scores the second

Polish Robert Lewandowski, who is looked upon by Xavi as one of the best strikers of this generation, has once again proved his mettle when he scored the second goal of the night, with just 19 minutes on the clock. It was once again the fruitful contribution from the midfield as Frenkie De Jong found out Joao Felix to double up the lead, as the Dutchman played an outrageous through ball to find Portuguese’ feet, who was clever enough to utilize his passing finesse, playing out an inch-perfect cross for Lewa, who was alone and unmarked at the far post. The Pichichi award holder scored the second with a volley, thus increasing the score line by 2-0 in Xavi’s favor.

Gavi scores the fourth

After 20 minutes, with a 2-0 cushion in Barca’s favor, fans have thought that the Catalans would definitely not rest as they have been hungry for more goals. This time, although it was Raphinha’s attempt to score a third goal, but the cross flew tangentially to Antwerp defender Bataille’s leg, as the right back slotted the ball in his own net, making the score more in Barca’s favor, with the Catalans 3-0 up on 22nd minute.

With a comfortable 3-0 up in half-time, Xavi would have thought of giving some players a run-out, but decided to carry on with the squad , as he wanted more goals. And he was rewarded with his decision of fielding the same team, as the ‘prodigal’ son, Gavi, fired home the fourth of the night. Once again, the trademark Tiki-Taka passing style won the hearts of the fans as a meticulous passing exercise for the Blaugranas ended in a firing shot at the keeper, which was blocked by the custodian, but it fell in the feet of youngster Gavi, who was perfectly in position to fire home the fourth goal of the night, with his shot blasting the roof of the net, as Gavi scored his first UCL goal.

Joao Felix- the Portuguese phoenix at it again

Just when Van Bommel and his side had thought that maybe Barca have relieved them from their outrageous onslaught at Montjuic, the Portuguese missile Joao Felix had other things in mind, as he scored the fifth goal of the game, and his second. Felix was assisted by Brazilian winger Raphinha, whose cross was slotted home by Felix as he showed his attacking finesse once again to the world, thus opening his European account for Barca with a bang.

Xavi decided to give some of his players a rest after completion of the damage, as the pain inflicted on Antwerp forced Van Bommel to make some changes and introduce a fresh pair of legs. Xavi decided to hand 16-year old La Masia prodigy Lamine Yamal a Champions League debut, as the youngster, who is already on the record books for his exceptional class and attacking prowess, becomes the youngest player to play for Barca in the Champions League, overtaking Ansu Fati, who is plying his trade with Premier League giants Brighton.

With this victory, Barcelona sit on top of Group H, as in the other game, Porto reigned supreme over Shakhtar, as they won 3-1. Barca had dominated the entire game with their possession skills, barely losing the ball out to Antwerp, as they had blasted 22 shots compared to Antwerp’s 3. The La Liga giants face Celta Vigo on Saturday and would look to extend their unbeaten run in the league.

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