An undermanned, out-matched, and out-gunned Tottenham Hotspur have given Barcelona a real scare before losing 4-2 in a thrilling match at Wembley.
The Spanish giants dominated most of the game and should have been out of sight following a dominant first-half display. However, their recent fragility was on show as they failed to kill the game off and spent the final quarter keeping out a Tottenham onslaught as Spurs desperately chased an equaliser.
Barcelona came into the match two points from their previous three LaLiga matches but any thoughts Tottenham’s depleted lineup had of taking advantage were snuffed out inside the opening minutes.
An early goalkeeping howler from the returning Hugo Lloris and a wonderful, long-range Ivan Rakitic volley seemed to have set Barcelona on their way at half time before Harry Kane gave Tottenham hope with his 10th Champions League goal in 12 matches early in the second half.
Messi – who had the post twice – then finished off a lovely team move to restore Barca’s cushion and seemingly put the game to bed. But Tottenham then roared back into contention through Erik Lamela’s wonderful curling effort with 25 minutes to go.
Messi did then finally kill the game off in injury time as Spurs chased an unlikely equaliser.
Injury-hit Spurs welcomed back captain Lloris but were without six first-team players, with Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Jan Vertonghen, Moussa Dembele, Serge Aurier and Michel Vorm all ruled out.
When your already small squad is stretched thin, a good start is imperative but Tottenham were behind after just 93 seconds and it was Lloris at the heart of the Barca’s opener.
Messi was given space on the halfway line, he picked out Jordi Alba on the corner of the box. Lloris completely misjudged the play and rushed out from his line, Alba got to the ball first and teed up ex-Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho to pass it into the empty net.
Spurs attempted to respond and get a foothold in the match but they could barely lay a glove on Barcelona. When they did eventually get hold of the ball they found an impenetrable blue and red wall stopping their progress.
It took 25 minutes to register a shot, a rasping 25-yard Kane drive that Marc Andre ter Stegen held well.
Tottenham were lacking quality in the final third, Barcelona were not. And the Catalans doubled their lead through an absolutely stunning strike from Ivan Rakitic.
Messi started it with a dinked pass into the box to Luis Suarez, who chested it into the path of Coutinho, he completely mistimed his shot but managed to hook the ball back, where it fell to Rakitic.
Rakitic leapt high to get above the bouncing ball and lashed a wonderfully-controlled volley in off the post from 20 yards. Lloris had no chance with that one.
Tottenham were up against but did have the ball in the net from Son’s volley, but the goal was rightly disallowed by a handball in the build up. Barcelona were then thanking ter Stegen for keeping out Lamela’s deflected cross.
Messi had two chances to kill off the match inside the first five minutes of the restart but twice he hit the outside of Lloris’ right-hand post from identical positions. However, from the second attempt Spurs counter-attacked and were level.
Lamela fed Kane on the left, Tottenham’s striker stood up Cabral Semedo and then passed the ball into the net to give Spurs hope.
That hope only lasted two minutes as Messi coolly finished off a wonderful Alba cross that had been left by Suarez and Coutinho, to restore Barca’s two-goal cushion and apparently kill off the match.
However, Tottenham roared back with just under half an hour to go when Lamela curled a wonderful shot into ter Stegen’s top left-hand corner.
There was even time for Lloris to gift Messi another goal, the keeper did well to win a long ball over the top but his second attempt to clear landed right at the Argentine’s feet but Toby Alderweireld’s wonderful last-ditch tackle kept the score at 3-2.
Tottenham pushed hard for an unlikely equaliser, Lucas Moura had a dangerous shot brilliantly blocked while Moussa Sissoko blazed a shot over the bar when well placed. But as they chased the match into injury time, Messi has on hand to finally kill the game off when he was afforded the entire Spurs penalty box to stroke home the final goal.
Source: Hamish Williams