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Champions League Review: Barca Stroll Into Last Sixteen

neymar-barcaNeymar and Luis Súarez continued their rich vein of form as Barcelona eased past a determined, organised BATE team 3-0 to stride to the brink of the UEFA Champions League knockout stage.

The title holders peppered the BATE goal before penetrating it. Sergei Chernik’s sharp one-on-one stop from Neymar, after a flowing four-man move, began the pattern of the Belarusians frustrating Barça. Luis Suárez squeezed an effort past the post, Adriano hit the same upright.

Despite that, possibly the biggest scoring opportunity was nipped off the toes of Munir El Haddadi, an early replacement for Ivan Rakitić after the midfielder dropped to the turf in pain. Dani Alves supplied but the youngster was thwarted in the act of converting his first goal this season by a super Nemanja Milunović interception.

BATE made Barcelona work. Marc-André ter Stegen saved smartly from Igor Stasevich’s early free-kick, and at his near post from the same player before half-time.

Then came the opener. A deft one-two wall pass between Munir and Suárez resulted in the Spaniard being hauled back by Filip Mladenović for a penalty. Neymar took one step and comprehensively wrong-footed Chernik for his first spot kick in this competition.

The points were sealed with the game’s crowning moment. Thomas Vermaelen broke up a BATE attack in his own box, fed Sergio Busquets, who was exceptional from start to finish. From there, via Neymar, Suárez had his third goal of this Group E campaign.

The Uruguayan also rattled the post and then added an assist for the third, which Neymar tapped home.

Key player: Luis Súarez
Stiff competition from Neymar and, indeed, the ever reliable Busquets, but as the No9 drew within one goal of Diego Maradona’s total for Barça, in the same number of games, his overall work turned the match. His one-two with Munir created the penalty for the first goal; he showed superb deft, quick feet for the second and laid the third on a plate for his strike partner.

Where the match was won
BATE were well organised, played with some flair but they do not have forwards of the quality of Neymar and Suárez. And even when they did threaten the Barcelona goal they found Ter Stegen in fantastic form. Strikers like Barcelona’s, even when Lionel Messi is absent, make the difference.