Barcelona returned to Lisbon again, but this time around, the opposition was not Bayern Munich – Benfica faced Barca and they had not beaten the Catalans since 1961. Well, last night they broke the jinx by thrashing the visitors by 3-0. Sadly, Barca experienced yet another nightmare at Lisbon.
—Down 3-0 to Benfica
—Lost 3-0 at home to Bayern
—Zero shots on target over two games
Barcelona are in tatters.
Benfica beat Barcelona for the first time since 1961.
What a night to enjoy football!
— Faisal Caesar (@faisalyorker1) September 30, 2021
Playing on the same pitch where they were humiliated 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the 2019/20 Champions League quarter-finals, Barcelona limped to defeat against the Portuguese side with a combination of poor defending and some horrific finishing.
The results mean Barcelona are now not only winless after their first two matches in Group E but are also goalless and facing the very real possibility of failing to reach the knockout round.
There was a return of Pedri in Ronald Koeman’s midfield, while at the back the Dutch boss opted for three centre-backs and upfront a pairing of Luuk de Jong and Memphis Depay.
It was a nightmare start for Barcelona, with Darwin Nunez handing the hosts an early 1-0 lead by moving past the slow-footed Eric Garcia and firing in past goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen for the goal.
🗞️ | Spanish newspaper headlines after benfica beats Barcelona 3-0:
🔸This is a Nightmare
🔹Hanging by a Thread
— infosfcb (@infosfcb) September 30, 2021
After another wobble that saw Roman Yaremchuk force a save out of Ter Stegen, Barcelona found some footing and should have equalised on a clear chance for Luuk de Jong, who botched the shot, followed by missed opportunities for Pedri and Memphis Depay.
Koeman elected to go to his bench in the first half and he hooked the already booked Gerard Pique, who was replaced by Gavi. The veteran centre-back was almost given his second yellow, but nonetheless, it was a shock to see the decorated defender taken off.
The decision also meant Frenkie de Jong dropped back in defence, and with that Barcelona’s attacking impetus was badly blunted.
For the first time in 24 years, Barcelona have now gone five Champions League matches without a victory pic.twitter.com/Bji6y6IwNJ
— #Mohameď Waddani (@M_Hassan_Khaire) September 30, 2021
Darwin Nunez nearly had another goal at the start of the second half, this time when Ter Stegen came way off his line, allowing Nunez to round the German shot-stopper and fire a long-range shot with the goal-mouth completely open, only for the ball to hit the post.
Outside of a Sergi Roberto volley off a Memphis pass that was blocked at the far post, Barcelona’s attack was generating little, so the recently returned Ansu Fati along with Nico Gonzalez and Philippe Coutinho were summoned for Luuk de Jong, Busquets and Pedri.
But moments after that trio entered the pitch, Benfica made it 2-0 when Rafa Silva followed up Joao Mario’s blocked shot with a finish into the net.
Good morning. Man City’s 5th choice CB is good enough to be Barcelona’s 1st. Let that sink in. pic.twitter.com/OP1zKXRq7O
— ⁹ 🇳🇴 (@erlingszn) September 30, 2021
The night would grow worse for the Catalonian visitors, with VAR ruling for a penalty in favour of Benfica for a Sergino Dest handball off a Gilberto header. Nunez stepped up and coolly converted the spot-kick, stretching the advantage to 3-0.
For Barcelona, it was just about limiting the damage from that point on, which they managed to do, but not before Eric Garcia got himself sent off for a second yellow card, perfectly encapsulating his side’s very forgettable day.
The backline was fragile – Eric Garcia is slow and soft, and Benfica’s first goal left him helpless. It’s not the first time either. Darwin Nunez did a move at training pace and it was enough for him to outrun Garcia. Meanwhile, Marc-Andre ter Stegen was a shadow of the goalkeeper he once was.
“I feel supported by my players and their attitude,” Koeman declared in his post-match press conference.
— cricketsoccer (@cricketsoccer) September 30, 2021
“I can only comment on my work with the team.”
“I don’t know about the rest, I don’t know about the club.”
“The final result is hard to accept, it’s not the result we saw on the pitch,” he confirmed.
“I think the team played well until 2-0, we had very clear opportunities to score.”
“That’s how you change the game; if they score one of their few chances and get three goals, then there is a big difference.”
Barcelona is worse than United today pic.twitter.com/kaZBm8eNo2
— Jay (@Jay_scholsie) September 30, 2021
“We’re in a serious situation, we have only had two games but we have zero points,” Busquets declared in his post-match interview.
“We have to think about moving up the table, we have no other choice.”
“We have to wait and see what happens in the other games. We are bottom, but we must think positively.”
“We had chances which ended up with shots a few meters from goal. The stats are all well and good, but those are chances to score.”
“In the areas where games are decided we haven’t been impactful. I think we had enough chances, but we let them off the hook.”
— IM10 (@IMizgir10) September 30, 2021
De Jong was one of the better performers on a difficult night for Los Cules, however, the club’s Champions League campaign is in danger of being a total disaster after losing to both Bayern Munich and Benfica in their opening two group-stage matches.
“I don’t think changing the coach is the solution,” De Jong declared in his post-match interview.
“I can’t talk about Koeman, it’s not my place.”
“We have to keep fighting, stay together and overcome this situation. We can only escape this with hard work and being united as a team.”
Europe once again brought out the true colours of Barcelona. It was shown once again that the Catalan team are not at the requisite level to play with the best in the continent.
To drop into the Europa League the team would need to finish third in the group, but right now even that is not clear. Perhaps the best thing would be to forget Europe and spend a season tucked under a blanket.