Barcelona defied an outgoing off-field crisis as
another Lionel Messi-inspired display exacted
revenge on Juventus to open their Champions
League campaign with a resounding 3-0 win on
Messi was involved in all three goals as he beat
Gianluigi Buffon for the first time in his career
to open the floodgates just before half-time.
Ivan Rakitic added a second after Messi’s run
and cross opened up the Juventus defence
before the Argentine rounded off the scoring
by drilling home his second of the evening 19
minutes from time.
Victory puts Barca on top of Group D alongside
Sporting Lisbon, who were 3-2 winners at
Barca’s start to the season has been dominated
by calls for president Josep Maria Bartomeu to
resign following Neymar’s world record move
to Paris Saint-Germain and the Catalan giants’
bungled moves to replace the Brazilian.
However, Ousmane Dembele impressed on his
full debut following a 105 million-euro ($126
million) move from Borussia Dortmund, as
Barca proved as long as they have Messi there
is life after Neymar.
“We know that when he gets the ball anything
can happen,” said Barca coach Ernesto Valverde
after his first Champions League game in
charge. “I have suffered many times playing
against Messi and now I have the luck to have
him on my side.”
Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri, though, was
less impressed by Messi as he blamed his side’s
defending for allowing the five-time World
Player of the Year too much space to exploit.
“We gave him too much space, we almost
made it easy for him,” said Allegri. “We have
to understand that when we play in the
Champions League against teams of this level,
we have to be aware every minute of the game.
“Against a different team without Messi, we
wouldn’t have conceded those goals.”