In a strange night of football, Barcelona just about beat Dynamo Kyiv 2-1 at the Camp Nou.
The Blaugrana started the game ferociously but only managed to score two goals against a Dynamo side that was lively even as they were decimated by injury and illness. Who were the winners and losers?
Winner: Marc-André Ter Stegen
Marc-André Ter Stegen headed into last season’s quarter-final against Bayern Munich determined to prove he should be Germany’s no. 1. Eight goals later, that debate went quiet and Ter Stegen had surgery to deal with a persistent issue.
The surgery meat that he missed the start of the season for Barcelona, and he was given his debut against Dynamo in what the Blaugrana must have suspected would be a comfortable return to action for the Germany.
Well it turns out that the Barcelona players must have wanted him to get lots of action on his return because they defended atrociously and allowed Dynamo to pepper him with shot after shot after shot. And every single time they did, the German was equal to them.
Ter Stegen was flying all over his goal, coming off his line and making ice cold stops 1-v-1, the whole gamut of his repertoire. A magnificent performance that reminded everyone just how good he is. Even the goal he conceded came after he made a superb save and his defenders didn’t close out on the rebound first. He was impervious and imperious and was the reason Barcelona won the game.
Loser: Antoine Griezmann
What more can you say about Antoine Griezmann at Barcelona? The Frenchman has long been a square peg in a round hole at Barcelona, but you keep thinking that he’s so talented he’ll be able to turn the corner. He’ll be able to make it happen.
But it just isn’t happening. Nothing Griezmann does in an offensive capacity has been working. He defends diligently, working his socks off for his side, but when it comes time for him to impact the attack? Nothing.
Minimal runs off the ball, minimal chemistry with his team-mates, minimal composure when a rebound gifted him an open goal shot just seven minutes into the game. That chance would have made it 2-0 and opened the match up, but Griezmann fluffed his lines yet again.
Given his transfer fee and wages, Barcelona absolutely need more from Antoine Griezmann and he seems unable to provide it.
Winner: Ruslan Nescheret
As good as Ter Stegen was, he was upstaged on the night by a teenager. Ruslan Nescheret was playing in just his second game for Dynamo as a result of their injury crisis, and goodness gracious did the he ever make his mark on the game.
Ruslan Neshcheret made TWELVE saves against Barcelona, the joint-third most by a goalkeeper in a single #UCL game all-time.
The 18-year old making quite an impression on his European debut. pic.twitter.com/DEMRKwRklj
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 4, 2020
Beaten by a Messi penalty and a Piqué header, Nescheret was on the losing side today but personally he was a winner. Not just metaphorically but he literally won several duels with Barcelona forwards, flying around his goal to beat the ball away.
One stop in particular from a Leo Messi free-kick was absolutely sensational, the teenager roared across his goal to bat the ball away like it was nothing. 12 saves in total means he’s already got the joint-third most saves ever recorded in a single Champions League games. A magnificent performance and one that should earn him a start in the return leg in three weeks.
Loser: Leo Messi
Yes, Leo Messi scored. His third of this Champions League season, one in each game, but it was a penalty again. Now converting penalties is not to be looked down upon, but what is so strange is that Messi just cannot seem to score away from the spot.
The Argentine had 6 shots against Dynamo with 4 hitting the target, yet his only goal was the penalty. All told he’s had 17 shots in the Champions League this season, 14 from open play where his goal conversion is a big fat 0%.
Messi obvious contributes to the entire game with his dribbling and passing, so his lack of goals wouldn’t be a problem for Barcelona except that with the squad as currently constructed, Messi is the primary goalscorer. And when the primary goalscorer can only score penalties, the side doesn’t score as many as it should, and when that happens, the defence gets exposed.
This isn’t to say “it’s all Messi’s fault!” but the Argentine needs to step his game up.
Winner: Ansu Fati
To the surprise of absolutely no one, the most lively Barcelona player was once again Ansu Fati. The teenager recently turned 18 and celebrated with a lively display where he decimated the visitors to the Camp Nou.
Ansu Fati's game by numbers vs. Dynamo Kyiv:
93% pass accuracy
16 touches in the opp box (!)
3 shots on target
3 chances created
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 4, 2020
Every time Ansu touched the ball you could feel the electricity ripple throughout the arena even though there were no fans. The teenager was electric, ending with a joint game-high 4 take-ons completed as he bamboozled defenders. He forced numerous big saves out of Nescheret including the one that should have led to a Griezmann goal on the rebound.
And when Barcelona were desperate for a second goal, who but Ansu stepped up and delivered a beautiful cross into the box for Gerard Piqué to nod home. A game-winning assist from the teenage sensation. Barcelona might be a mess but Ansu Fati is so fresh, so clean.
Loser: Ronald Koeman
Koeman won. Yes. Three wins from three nine points top of the group. Yes. All fantastic. But after the opening 15-20 minutes tonight was an abysmal display from Barcelona. Not that they didn’t play well in attack, they did, but they were so staggeringly casual and wasteful. Moreover at the back they were porous as anything, conceding chances by the fistful as Dynamo gouged them repeatedly.
Koeman cut a hilarious figure on the face, his pained expressions betraying the fury that must have been boiling inside him as his side wasted chance after chance onto give up chance after chance as well. But as much as his players let him down, part of the blame has to go to Koeman.
After all no one made him persist with Sergio Busquets in midfield. The Catalan is such a faded force and whenever he plays teams can just walk through the Barcelona midfield at will to expose the defence. It’s painful to watch, and the cost of inserting Busquets was playing Frenkie de Jong in defence, which worked in an emergency against Juve but here it was just odd as he is clearly not a centre-back and Dynamo exposed that fact on more than one occasion.
It was Koeman who made strange subs, first removing control from midfield and then adding it when things got worse. It was Koeman who ignored Riqui Puig when the youngster would have added the serenity and tempo that the midfield was crying out for.
Barcelona have problems, and Ronald Koeman is the man who has to solve them, and right now he just isn’t. That’s why he looked so stressed, he could see all his mistakes being played out in front of him and he didn’t have the answers.