Lionel Messi provided the spark for 10-man Barcelona to clinch a 5-1 victory over Ferencvaros in a lively Champions League Group G opener.

Ronald Koeman had suggested the Argentine’s form ‘could be better’ coming into this contest and the talismanic number 10 responded with cameos of genius to suggest he’s edging closer to his best.

LaLiga Smartbank
Messi given two-game ban for Super Cup red, Barca to appeal
YESTERDAY AT 14:44

Messi won and converted a penalty to open the scoring on 27 minutes after the Hungarian champions had gone close through Isael’s shot against the post; in the process scoring in 16 consecutive Champions League seasons.

The Catalan giants moved up a gear as the game wore on with Ansu Fati doubling the advantage just prior to the interval. The teenager becomes the first player in history to score two goals in the competition before his 18th birthday.

Messi and Fati then combined brilliantly to set up Philippe Coutinho to rifle in a third on 52 minutes.

Philippe Coutinho of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his sides third goal during the UEFA Champions League Group G stage match between FC Barcelona and Ferencvaros Budapest at Camp Nou on October 20, 2020 in Barcelona, Spain.

Image credit: Getty Images

It looked like a case of how many for the hosts, but the away side got back into the game 20 minutes from time when Gerard Pique was sent off for hauling down Tokmac Nguen. Ihor Kharatin stepped up and sent Neto the wrong way from the spot.

Barca were forced back in the later stages but sprung forward to rubber-stamp victory when substitutes Pedri and Ousmane Dembele both got in on the act.

The result sees Barca lead the pool on goal difference from Juventus at the end of Matchday One after the Old Lady won 2-0 at Dyamo Kiev.

Next up in Group G, Barcelona head to Juventus on Wednesday for what could be the latest head-to-head between Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi. Ferencvaros host Kiev.

TALKING POINT

Lots of positives for Barca, but bigger tests lie just around the corner. The new-look Barca have been solid if unspectacular in their first few matches under Koeman. This was a fine attacking performance where the likes of Francisco Trincao, Fati and Messi linked superbly at times.

It was arguably their best showing so far, however, the next few games will provide a much sterner test than the Hungarian champions, who still showed that the Catalan giants’ defence remains susceptible. The red card for Pique was a case in point, as Barca were finally made to pay for some weak concentration in their defence. It’s an issue that doesn’t seem to have been resolved and it’ll be interesting to see how they cope over the next week.

Gerard Pique of FC Barcelona is shown a red card during the UEFA Champions League Group G stage match between FC Barcelona and Ferencvaros Budapest at Camp Nou on October 20, 2020 in Barcelona, Spain.

Image credit: Getty Images

Koeman’s men will now host Real Madrid in El Clasico on Saturday hoping to build on this victory ahead of a trip to Juventus on Matchday Two of the Champions League. It’s early days in his tenure, but these two fixtures are already going to be crucial.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Lionel Messi (Barcelona). The Argentine produced a series of mazy runs and once again grabbed an obligatory CL goal. Provided the platform for Barca to go on and record a big victory, but will probably feel he could have added one or two more goals himself.

Barcelona's Argentine forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring a penalty during the UEFA Champions League football match between FC Barcelona and Ferencvarosi TC at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on October 20, 2020.

Image credit: Getty Images

PLAYER RATINGS

BARCELONA: Neto 6, Sergi Roberto 7, Dest 7, Lenglet 7, Pique 4, Pjanic 7, De Jong 8, Coutinho 7, Trincao 8, Fati 8, Messi 8. Subs: Dembele 7, Firpo 6, Pedri 7, Araujo 6, Busquets 6.

FERENCVAROS: Dibusz 6, Botka 6, Civic 6, Kovacevic 7, Blazic 6, Laidouni 6, Kharatin 7, Siger 6, Zubkov 6, Isael 7, Nguen 7. Subs: Somalia 6, Heister 6, Mak 6, Boli 6, Lovrencsics 6.

Matchcast: Full match stats and commentary

KEY MOMENTS

21’ – FERENCVAROS CHANCE. Isael makes a late dash into the box on an overlap and thunders in a first-time strike that cannons off the near post and flies to safety.

27’ – GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 Ferencvaros. Messi steps up and converts the spot kick he won with his solo dribble by firing it into the bottom corner of the net.

42’ – GOAL! Barcelona 2-0 Ferencvaros. Fati volleys into the far corner after a one-two with De Jong saw the forward latch on to the Dutchman's clipped return pass.

52’ – GOAL! Barcelona 3-0 Ferencvaros. Coutinho thumps a low shot into the near post corner after wonderful link-up play from Messi and Fati.

70’ – GOAL AND RED CARD! Barcelona 3-1 Ferencvaros. Kharatin sends Neto the wrong way with a composed spot kick. The penalty was awarded after Pique was shown a straight red for pulling back Nguen.

82’ – GOAL! Barcelona 4-1 Ferencvaros. That will finish it. Pedri crashes a low shot home after great play by Dembele on the break down the right.

89’ – GOAL! Barcelona 5-1 Ferencvaros. Dembele smashes the fifth into the net after clever hold up work from Messi.

KEY STATS

Messi is the first player in Champions League history to score in 16 consecutive seasons; no player in the competition’s history has scored in more seasons overall than the Argentinian (16 – level with Ryan Giggs).

Barcelona are unbeaten in 37 Champions League home matches, a run that started in September 2013 (W33 D4).

Fati is the first player ever to score more than one CL before turning 18.

Spanish Supercopa
Messi sent off as Athletic stun Barcelona to win Supercopa
17/01/2021 AT 18:21
LaLiga Smartbank
Barcelona postpone presidential election over Covid-19 fears
15/01/2021 AT 13:07