Four second-half goals masked a lacklustre performance as a much-changed Barcelona booked their place in the Champions League last 16 with a 4-0 win at Dynamo Kiev.
While the win sees Barca advance from the group stages for the 17th successive season, the result does flatter Ronald Koeman’s side who lacked creativity and intensity throughout despite dominating possession in the absence of key players such as Lionel Messi, Frenkie de Jong, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets who were either rested or injured.
It was only when Dynamo Kiev started to tire and make individual errors that Barca started to find a way through. Danish striker Martin Braithwaite - an emergency signing in February - proved the surprising hero on the night. He set up 20-year-old right-back Sergino Dest for his first Barcelona goal in the 52nd minute before doubling the score in the 57th when he netted at the far post after debutant Oscar Mingueza headed on Carles Alena’s corner.
It then got even better for Braithwaite when he confidently drilled home a penalty in the 70th minute after Denys Popov pushed him in the back, before Antoine Griezmann added a fourth in injury-time. Dynamo Kiev were set-up very defensively right from the get-go, looking to threaten on the counter-attack, with half-chances falling to Carlos De Pena and Benjamin Verbic either side of the break, but they were made to pay when Barcelona suddenly turned ruthless in the second half.
The Ukrainian club will next travel to play Juventus on 2nd December, as they look to qualify for the Europa League knockout stages now their Champions League exit is confirmed. Barca are away to Ferencvaros that same evening.
TALKING POINT - IS BARCA'S CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FORM PAPERING OVER THE CRACKS?
Tuesday's victory makes it four wins out of four for Barcelona so far this season in the Champions League. Although they do not have the hardest of groups overall, one of those wins was a 2-0 away victory against Juventus. In stark contrast to that, they sit in 13th place in La Liga - 12 points behind surprise leaders Real Sociedad and six behind bitter rivals Real Madrid. The win will do very little to atone for the negativity shrouding the club at the moment.
Amidst the backdrop of in-fighting at board level that has resulted in Josep Maria Bartomeu being pushed into resignation last month, Ronald Koeman's reign has so far offered little sign of hope. His ropey relationship with star man Messi has grabbed headlines, while a plethora of injury problems and dubious team selections have also contributed to the club's worst start to La Liga in 25 years. Barcelona may be in a transitional phase, but Koeman's poor handling of talented young midfielder Riqui Puig gives fans little confidence that he is the right man to nurture potentially world-class young talent such as Ansu Fati, Francisco Trincao and Pedri.
Koeman has had a decent managerial career up until this point but it still baffles why some of Europe's top clubs hire managers almost entirely based on nostalgia over their stellar playing career for their club. The Dutchman will be very fortunate if he is still in a job after the club presidential elections in January 2021.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Sergino Dest (Barcelona) - The Catalan club fought off stiff competition from other European giants to land the signature of the USA international right-back and despite being only 20 years old he has already started to hold down a starting spot in the team, albeit sometimes at left-back when Sergi Roberto is fit to play on the right. However, Roberto's injury has given him a valuable opportunity to make the right-back spot his own and he grabbed that opportunity with both hands on Tuesday. Although Dynamo Kiev did not offer much going forward he held his own defensively, while he was a constant attacking threat who added another dimension to Barca's play. He capped a fine performance with the opening goal, his first for Barcelona as he finished a move he started.
Martin Braithwaite (L) celebrates with Junior Firpo after scoring for Barcelona
Image credit: Getty Images
Dynamo Kiev: Buschan 4, Kedziora 5, Zabarnyi 4, Mykolenko 5, Karavaev 5, Shepelev 5, Buyalsky 6, Harmash 6, De Pena 7, Verbic 6, Shaparenko 5...Subs: Popov 4, Andrievsky 5, Supriaga 5, Lednev 5, Baluta N/A
Barcelona: Ter Stegen 6, Junior 6, Lenglet 7, Mingueza 8, Dest 8, Alena 7, Pjanic 7, Pedri 6, Trincao 6, Coutinho 6, Braithwaite 8...Subs: Alba 7, Puig 7, Griezmann 8, Fernandes 6, de la Fuente N/A
52' - GOOOOAAALLLL!!! Finally some action and it's an opener for Barcelona. Dest starts and finishes the move as he receives the ball from Braithwaite in the box and finishes low into the left-hand corner to give him his first ever goal for Barcelona and put them 1-0 ahead!
57' - GOOOOAAAAALLL!!! The floodgates are open now! Alena whips in a brilliant corner and the debutant Mingueza heads it on to Braithwaite who shows really good anticipation to latch onto the end of it and score at the far post. That's his first ever goal in European competition and only his 2nd for Barca!
69' - PENALTY TO BARCA! Very easy decision for the referee to make as Popov pushes Braithwaite in the back as he heads the ball into the hands of Buschan.
70' - GOOOAAAAALLL!!! Brilliant penalty from Braithwaite! He confidently rifles it into the bottom-left corner for his second of the night and Barcelona's third. Could be a big confident booster for the Dane.
89' - CHANCE! De la Fuente has tonnes of space to run into and he lays it off to his international teammate Dest on the edge of the box, who has made a lung-busting run to join the attack. But he's off-balance when he takes the shot and it sails wide.
90+2' - GOOOOAALLLL!!! It was supposed to be a quiet night for Griezmann but he couldn't help but get involved! Fellow sub Alba tees him up in the middle of the box and after a lovely first touch he smashes it past Buschan to inflict further misery on the Lucescu's men.