Robert Lewandowski scored a brilliant hat-trick as Barcelona eased to a win that was both expected and impressive in a game where Plzen were blown away by their hosts’ creativity and speed.
Barca got after Plzen from the off and on 13 minutes went ahead when Franck Kessie nodded home after Jules Kounde won first contact following a corner.
At that point, it looked like a case of how many, but when Jhon Mosquera spun Andreas Christensen and Christensen pulled him down, the ref pointed to the spot and drew his red card. But a look at VAR showed Christensen’s foul to have followed Mosquera’s elbow, so the decision was reversed.
Shortly afterwards, a lovely finish from Lewandowski put Barca 2-0 up, and though Jan Sykora pulled one back for Plzen, Lewandowski headed his second and his team’s third in first-half injury-time, following great work from Ousmane Dembele.
You feared for Plzen when they emerged after the break, and sure enough, brilliant goals by Lewandowski and Torres, on as sub, put them further behind. But that was last of the scoring, though you suspect there will be other teams who feel the force of Barca’s attack this season.
Ousmane Dembele is one of the most exciting, explosive young players this correspondent has ever seen, as obvious a superstar as there can possibly be. But things have not gone well in recent times, injuries and general upheaval stunting his development.
However, under Xavi Barcelona look like a team reborn – they even did last season, prior to somehow adding players in the summer. And Dembele, who has established himself as a first pick, played beautifully tonight, displaying enterprise, imagination and graft.
It helps having Robert Lewandowski to play into and off, it’s true, but likewise Lewandowski is benefitting from the work of Dembele. If both men stay fit, the rest of Europe would do well to look out.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona) A brilliant talent is now a brilliant player and, though Lewandowski scored yet another brilliant hat-trick, it was Dembele who got the team going.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen 6, Sergi Roberto 7, Jules Kounde 6, Andreas Christensen 6, Jordi Alba 7, Kessie 7, De Jong 6, Pedri 8, Dembele 9, Lewandowski 9, Fati 6. Subs: Pique 6, Ferran Torres 7, Memphis 6, Gavi 6, Pablo Torres 6.
Viktoria Plzen: Stanek 6, Havel 6, Pernica 7, Hejda 5, Jemelka 5, Kalvach 5, Bucha 6, Sykora 6, Vlankova 5, Mosquera 6, Chory 6. Subs: Cernak 6, Bassey 6, Jirka 6, Pilar 6, Holik 6.
Robert Lewandowski is the first player to score a Champions League hat trick for three different teams (one for Borussia Dortmund, four for Bayern Munich and one for Barcelona)
13’ – GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 Viktoria Plzen (Kessie) This is the most unBarcelona goal there is! Dembele’s corner picks out Kounde beyond the penalty spot, he wins the first header and Kessie glances inside what’s now the far post. That was coming – Barca started like they meant it – and you fear for Plzen now.
24’ – PENALTY TO PLZEN!
A long punt forward was flicked on, Mosquera turned Christensen, and Christensen hauled him down! And the ref has the red card out!
25’ – BUT HANG ON!
Mosquera caught Christensen with a forearm to the face as he spun! It wasn’t deliberate, but it came just before the foul, and the ref will have to change his decision, I think.
27’ – GOODNESS ME!
No penalty, no red card, and a booking for Mosquera! What a turnaround that is! I didn’t see it in real time and Christensen was still made to look silly in how he was spun, but VAR has done its job.
34’ – A LOVELY GOAL! Barcelona 2-0 Viktoria Plzen (Lewandowski) That’s six goals in five games for the top man, and what a finish it is. Pedri wins the ball in midfield and finds Sergi Roberto, somehow central, who streaks towards the box. He nudges off, Lewandowski has a look, opens his body, and plants a low, light curler into the far side-netting. I reckon Barca might win this.
44’ – GOAL! Barcelona 2-1 Viktoria Plzen (Sykora) Now then! Plzen have been dangerous on the counter, and Chory tries a shot from outside the box that’s deflected out to the left, where Jemelka arrives – on the sprint as Barca dither. He dinks into the middle, Sykora heads home, and do we got ourselves a ball-game?!
45+3’ – GOAL! Barcelona 3-1 Viktoria Plzen (Lewandowski) The scorer is Lewandowski, but this is all Dembele! He chases Mosquera, dallying near the touchline, dives into a challenge from behind, wins the ball, turns, arcs the most luscious cross you’ve ever seen to the back post, and Lewandowski dives to nod home an equaliser.
67’ – GOAL! Barcelona 4-1 Viktoria Plzen (Lewandowski) WHAT A GOAL FOR THE HAT-TRICK! WHAT A PLAYER! Jordi Alba clips a ball into the box, near side for Torres, who touches off to the edge … and here come Lewandowski, grooving onto the ball and, somehow, both stroking and punching a sensational low curler low towards the far corner. Amazing.
71’ – GOAL! Barcelona 5-1 Viktoria Plzen (Torres) Another lovely goal; another lovely goal made by Dembele. He wanders infield, takes the ball off De Jong, and wedges a lovely ball over that takes out four men and which Torres watches over his shoulder, sweeping expertly into the roof of the net.