Barcelona have taken command of Group G in the UEFA Champions League after a convincing 2-0 win at a Cristiano Ronaldo-less Juventus on Wednesday as part of Matchday 2. Ousmane Dembele scored in the first half, Juventus defender Merih Demiral was shown a red card late and Lionel Messi converted a penalty kick in stoppage time to put it away.
Ronaldo missed the game due to his coronavirus diagnosis and it showed as Juve rarely threatened, and when they did they were offside. Barca, on the other side, dominated all game long and should have put it away much earlier than they did, allowing Juve to stick around.
The victory gives Barca three points and a three-point lead atop the group with six. Juve are in second with three points of their own.
Barca rebound from El Clasico loss in big way
The thumping defeat to Real Madrid in El Clasico highlighted many of the issues Barca currently have, but credit is due for this bounce-back performance. Perhaps the team was fueled by the news that the president Josep Bartomeu resigned. Now, let’s not get carried away and think this was a fantastic showing, but Barca were strong. Defensively they didn’t allow a shot on goal, they completed nearly 90 percent of their passes, dominated possession and were able to get the ball into space quickly to create 13 total shots. Sure, the goals came from a deflection and a penalty, but both Messi and Antoine Griezmann had fantastic looks at goal.
Barca also kept their width well, which was key to Messi finding Dembele on the first goal:
This was a Barca team that felt much improved over the one that lost to Real, and there was just a sharpness in attack. Whether that was as a result of the changes made or a renewed energy, it’s a really good sign nonetheless.
Juventus are simply average without Ronaldo
That was ugly. No shots on goal, rarely looking like a threat and with Alvaro Morata getting the rare offside hat trick, putting the ball away three times only for it to be called off.
Over the last four matches without Ronaldo, Juve have lost to Barca and failed to beat Crotone and Verona, scoring four goals in four games. Half of those goals came in that 2-0 win over Dynamo Kyiv on Matchday 1.
This is a team that obviously relies and counts on Ronaldo’s production in the final third, but it’s also a club that is painfully average without him. With a manageable scheduled coming up, there may be more opportunities for Paulo Dybala and Morata to get in sync, but Wednesday’s display showed just how important Ronaldo is in lifting this team into something competitive.
McKennie makes Juve UCL debut
American Weston McKennie was the only USMNT guy to see the field in this one, with Sergino Dest an unused sub for Barca. McKennie saw the pitch for 15 minutes, pushed out wide quite a bit and had a couple of solid challenges. He had arguably the best look at an equalizer with a poorly hit shot atop the box, but it was a good sight to see him back in the team after his COVID-19 diagnosis. His ability to move the ball forward with very few touches gave Juve a little spark, but it was not nearly a big enough one to get them back into the match.