Ousmane Dembele and Robert Lewandowski stood out as Barcelona cruised to a 5-1 win over Viktoria Plzen on Wednesday.
Barcelona dominated the proceedings from the word go and deservedly went ahead in the 13th minute when Franck Kessie finished off a corner by nodding in a pinged headed pass from Jules Kounde. Jhon Mosquera seemed to have brought Viktoria Plzen back into the game midway through the first half when he went down inside the box after tangling with Andreas Christensen.
But VAR ruled out the penalty call after it emerged that Mosquera had elbowed Christensen in the head. Barcelona then settled down again before doubling the lead through Robert Lewandowski, who converted Sergi Roberto’s pass superbly. Viktoria Plzen pulled a goal back through Jan Sykora, but Barcelona restored the advantage on the stroke of half-time.
Lewandowski was in the thick of the action again, with Ousmane Dembele setting the goal by winning the ball from Mosquera before crossing the ball for the Polish striker. Barcelona did not relent after the break and added two more goals midway through the second half.
Lewandowski first completed his hat-trick after some fine link-up with Ferran Torres, who rounded off the win with a brilliant snapshot volley. The result has helped Barcelona lay down an early marker in a group that includes Bayern Munich and Inter Milan. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Xavi Hernandez’s men.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) September 7, 2022
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 6/10
It was an easy night for ter Stegen, with Viktoria Plzen managing only one shot on target. Unfortunately and frustratingly for him, the visitors scored with that effort, although he did not have a chance to stop the goal.
Sergi Roberto: 7/10
Roberto donned the armband for Barcelona, with Xavi resting Sergio Busquets on Wednesday. And the veteran Spaniard looked intent on making things happen, which he did when he set Robert Lewandowski up for the Pole’s first goal. He went off at half-time for Gerard Pique.
Andreas Christensen: 6/10
Christensen seemed to have conceded a penalty midway through the first half before VAR bailed him out. Otherwise, the Danish defender enjoyed an easy night at work, with Viktoria Plzen barely forcing him into action. Christensen used that as a reason to push Barcelona forward and help build the play from the back, completing 97 per cent of his 115 attempted passes.
Jules Kounde: 7/10
Kounde had a hit-and-miss game on Wednesday as he was at hand to set Franck Kessie up for the opener, his third assist for Barcelona in as many games. But the Frenchman failed to be in his position to stop Jan Sykora from scoring the goal for Viktoria Plzen. Otherwise, he was solid and settled into the right-back role effortlessly after the interval.
Going to be fun to watch Kounde in this Barça side / under Xavi. This is his first start at CB and look at where he's been involved pic.twitter.com/AYzJTzPjQN
— Samuel Marsden (@samuelmarsden) September 7, 2022
Jordi Alba: 7/10
Alba earned what might be a rare start this season for Barcelona, but he made sure to show that he still has much to offer to the Blaugrana. The veteran left-back completed 94 per cent of his attempted passes – a brilliant number for a full-back – and also created a few chances to boot. He might have shown Xavi that he is ready for a battle for the left-back spot.
Franck Kessie: 7/10
Kessie made his Champions League debut for Barcelona and was on top of his game on the night. The Ivory Coast international barely misplaced a pass and looked to push Barcelona forward with purpose. And Kessie also opened his account for Barcelona with a clever headed finish for his team’s opener.
Frenkie de Jong: 6/10
Frenkie de Jong was largely unspectacular on Wednesday, but he got the job done for the most part. While he could have played the ball forward somewhat quicker, he still managed to set the ball rolling for Barcelona, who dominated Viktoria Plzen on the night.
Pedri was not at his creative best, but he still managed to find a way to pull the strings from the middle of the park. The Spanish international gradually grew into the game and linked up smartly with those in front of him. He is such a vital cog for Barcelona.
Ousmane Dembele: 10/10
Xavi: "I'm more than happy for Ousmane Dembélé. He's at the same level as the best Neymar when the Brazilian was here at Barça. Trust me, he's an incredible player". ?? #FCB
It was almost over between Dembélé and Barça just 7 months ago… now, flying together. pic.twitter.com/tUIAeY9FxU
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) September 7, 2022
Dembele has been on another level since Xavi took charge of the Barcelona first team. And the Frenchman’s stock continued to rise on Wednesday, thanks to a performance that saw him run the show in the final third. Dembele was here, there, and everywhere. And the two assists he grabbed were a well-deserved reward for an excellent showing.
The first of those assists showed how far Dembele has come under Xavi as he lost the ball before recovering with an inch-perfect tackle to win it back before crossing in for Lewandowski’s second of the night. Dembele is unstoppable in this form.
Robert Lewandowski: 10/10
Lewandowski continues to go from strength to strength at FC Barcelona, and he notched up his first hat-trick of the season this time. In doing so, the Polish striker became the first player to score a UEFA Champions League hat trick for three different teams.
There was no stopping the legendary Pole, who produced a superb long-range goal to open his Champions League account for Barcelona before finishing Dembele’s cross for his second. But Lewandowski had saved the best for last, completing his hat-trick with a top-class curler. He is giving Erling Haaland a run for his money for the tag of the best striker in Europe.
22-year-old Erling Haaland (2 goals)
23-year-old Kylian Mbappe (2 goals)
34-year-old Robert Lewandowski responding with a hat trick: Remember me? ? pic.twitter.com/bHpZ6c2E10
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) September 7, 2022
Ansu Fati: 6/10
Xavi continued easing Ansu Fati into the thick of the action, but the Spanish prodigy showed signs of rust on Wednesday. While he barely misplaced a pass, he did not possess the quality to trouble Viktoria Plzen much on the night. It will take some time for him to be back to his best.
Gerard Pique: 6/10
Pique was solid after replacing Sergi Roberto at half-time. The outing might have helped him regain sharpness, and he completed each of his 43 attempted passes.
Ferran Torres: 7/10
Torres enjoyed a brilliant cameo in the game’s final quarter, grabbing a goal and an assist to help Barcelona round off a commanding win in style. He would have given Xavi some food for thought with that cameo.
Gavi helped give Pedri a breather with his introduction. The Spaniard completed all his attempted passes to keep Barcelona in control.
Memphis Depay: N/A
Depay looked purposeful in his cameo in his Barcelona appearance of the season but did not have enough time to influence the proceedings.
Pablo Torre: N/A
Torre made his Barcelona and UEFA Champions League debut on Wednesday but had little time to make an impression.