Luis Suarez scored a crucial goal through an assist by Jordi Alba.
Lionel Messi capped off another Champions League night to remember, leading Barcelona closer to European glory, in a 3-0 win against Liverpool, at the Camp Nou.
In what turned out to be a very erratic affair for both sides, it was Jurgen Klopp’s side who played with gusto and desire until the 75th-minute, when Messi finally came back to his usual best, from a rather subdued display till then. After a tap in, the Blaugrana talisman went on to reach the 600-goal mark, via a freekick, which will be a part of any football montage in the future.
The visitors were left to rue their mistakes and missed chances, which could have otherwise made the second-leg much tighter. Mohamed Salah, particularly, missed a glorious chance, hitting the post.
Watch: Barcelona 3-0 Liverpool, Goals and Highlights
Let’s take a look at the five important talking points, which we can conclude from the match:
5. Jordi Alba is always dependable
Although tested by Salah occasionally, Jordi Alba put in a match-winning display
In what was probably a very solid performance by the Euro 2012 winner, Alba proved his attacking prowess with a sublime assist to Luis Suarez in the 26th-minute.
The Spaniard was against Salah, who kept on threatening the Barca backline. Alba kept his cool, and made a key clearance, and blocked a shot too. He was industrious in challenging for 50-50 balls, and won many of them with much aplomb. In the attacking front, other than his assist, his runs helped his side during crucial moments.
4. Liverpool left to rue missed chances?
An away goal would have seriously helped the Jordan Henderson-led side, when they host their opponents at Anfield.
The Reds had more shots, more corner kicks, more shots inside and outside the box, more passes, and basically led the match in terms of attacking statistics. It could be nerves or poor luck, but James Milner, Sadio Mane, Henderson, Firmino and Salah missed chances.
Even a single Liverpool goal would have changed the tie.
- Jurgen Klopp got it wrong in referring to Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho as ‘Anfield Legends’- Jamie Carragher
3. Ernesto Valverde needs to make crucial decisions ahead of the second leg
Going into the second leg, Valverde needs to make key decisions regarding his starting XI. Philippe Coutinho had a silent outing, Ousmane Dembele also had a nervy cameo. Meanwhile, Arturo Vidal was excellent in his defending skills, but was average while attacking.
Meanwhile, Sergi Roberto was crucial with some key tackles, but found it hard to deal with Mane’s pace.
2. Should Roberto Firmino have started for Liverpool?
Firmino will need to start in Anfield
Recovering from an ankle injury, the Brazilian reportedly missed a fitness test, which forced Klopp to put him on the bench.
Arguably, Firmino is his side’s main man. The Premier League side’s attacking style revolves around him. He is the pivot to their brilliance, deployed in a false nine role. His presence plays a key role in Liverpool’s transitioning from defence to attack.
Firmino’s absence led to a lack of creative play for the Reds. But going into the second leg, Klopp needs to start him!
1. Lionel Messi masterclass but tie still left to be decided in Anfield?
This season, all of us have been left wanting more after every Barcelona display, with Messi usually winning the game for the Catalans due to sheer individual brilliance. The Argentine was successfully contained by Liverpool until his first goal of the match, where Virgil van Dijk was caught ball-watching. He then won the match for his team with a majestic top left corner free-kick in the 82nd-minute.
If only Ousmane Dembele would have converted that glorious chance, then Barcelona’s fate would have been sealed. The Frenchman was needed to grace the field, due to his pace which could help Barcelona’s dull counter-attacks, but his short cameo left questions regarding his full fitness. Although Klopp’s men haven’t scored a crucial away goal, they will still dare to electrify at home, and could really test Marc-Andre ter Stegen with Salah, Firmino, and Mane hopefully in sync.