Barca buoyant but Sevilla suffer

A patient yet frustrating first-half display by Barcelona in Belarus on Tuesday night saw the Catalans firing blanks for the first 45 minutes as they laboured to overcome BATE Borisov, but substitute Ivan Rakitic, a first-half replacement for the injured Sergi Roberto, broke the deadlock shortly after the interval.

Scoring twice from assists from Neymar, Rakitic made all the difference as Barcelona eventually showed their class against stubborn opposition. The Croatian playmaker could have had a hat-trick but spurned a chance before the break when he headed a Dani Alves cross over the bar.

Rakitic scored the opening goal after just four minutes of last May’s Champions League final to set up the Catalans’ win over Juventus. He can sometimes go missing in games when opponents are able to stifle his creativity, but the former Sevilla man has been a major asset for Coach Luis Enrique since he joined Barca at the beginning of last season.

Rakitic’s former club were made to rue a host of missed opportunities as they lost out to a stoppage-time Kevin De Bruyne goal at the Etihad Stadium. Sevilla ran Manchester City ragged in an opening half-hour that culminated in Yevhen Konoplyanka giving Unai Emery’s men a deserved lead, only for the Andalucians to then allow City back into the game.

The Ukrainian winger was in sparkling form, creating clear goalscoring chances, but striker Kevin Gameiro was particularly guilty of failing to convert them. Adil Rami’s deflected own goal was cruel on the defender but, despite monopolising possession, Sevilla have not been clinical or consistent enough in the Champions League, where further dropped points could be critical.

Real Madrid’s clash with Paris Saint-Germain was a predictably close, hard-fought affair and, without the injured Gareth Bale against full-strength opposition, the game was dominated by a midfield battle. A past master at defending strongly against a potent attack, Coach Rafa Benitez switched to 4-4-2 against a three-pronged attack of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani and Angel Di Maria as Los Blancos closed out the game to earn a valuable point and remain top of their group.

City rivals Atletico Madrid made short work of Astana, brushing aside the Kazakh outfit with two goals in each half at Vicente Calderon. Coach Diego Simeone will have been delighted to see Saul Niguez, Jackson Martinez and Oliver Torres all get on the scoresheet, with a late own goal embellishing the scoreline. Martinez had failed to score in eight games and although substitute Fernando Torres failed to net his 100th goal for Atleti, it was a thoroughly professional display by Simeone’s men.

In contrast, Valencia made heavy weather of defeating Belgian champions Gent at Mestalla. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have been patchy so far this season and were indebted to an early Sofiane Feghouli strike and a Stefan Mitrovic own goal in eventually overcoming the Champions League newcomers. 

La Liga - Club News