Tottenham had no answer for Lionel Messi and is facing an uphill battle the rest of the way in the Champions League group stage, while Liverpool was dealt a setback in Italy and PSG yet again toyed with a lesser foe.

By Jonathan Wilson
October 03, 2018

Tottenham's hopes of progressing in the Champions League already hang by a thread, with a 4-2 home defeat to Barcelona at Wembley Stadium leaving Spurs with no points after two games.

Lionel Messi was at his brilliant best, scoring twice as Tottenham’s defending once again looked suspect in Europe.

Inter Milan stands level at the top of the group with Barcelona after coming from behind for the second straight Champions League game to win 2-1 at PSV Eindhoven.

On a bad night for the English sides, Liverpool suffered its first defeat of the season, going down 1-0 away to Napoli thaks to Lorezno Insigne’s last-minute goal.

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Neymar scored a hat trick as Paris Saint-Germain thrashed Red Star Belgrade 6-1, but the pattern has become frustratingly familiar for the French champions. Smashing the lesser sides isn’t a problem; the struggles against the elite are, and PSG has yet to answer that question.

Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund took control of Group A with wins over Club Brugge (3-1) and Monaco (3-0), respectively. The two sides, who face each other home and away in the next two rounds of games, both have six points from two games.

Elsewhere, 20-year-old U.S. international Weston McKennie scored his first goal in senior competitive football, heading in a late corner as Schalke beat Lokomotiv Moscow 1-0 in Russia. Moussa Marega’s 49th-minute header gave Porto a 1-0 victory at home to Galatasaray in the other game in the group.

Here are the major talking points after another day in the Champions League:

Messi, Barcelona push Spurs to the brink early

Tottenham’s hopes of progressing to the knockout phase for the second straight season hang by a thread after a comprehensive home defeat to Barcelona. Spurs had conceded two late goals away to Inter two weeks ago to transform a win into a defeat, and the sense continues that there is something not quite right about the club this season, even if it is just four points off the top of the Premier League.

Barcelona hadn’t won in three league games but took the lead in the second minute, with a Hugo Lloris misjudgement allowing Jordi Alba to tee up Philippe Coutinho. Ivan Rakitic hit a stunning second after 28 minutes, lashing a shot in off the post at the very top of the bounce.

After Messi had hit the post twice following a pair of darting runs, Harry Kane pulled one back seven minutes into the second half, but a superb goal from Messi, following an incisive one-two, rapidly restored the two-goal margin. Erik Lamela made it 3-2 with a deflected effort, before Messi capitalized on a Luis Suarez dummy to score his second.

Tottenham was hampereded by a number of injuries to key players, most notably Christian Eriksen, but two straight defeats mean it cannot afford further slipups. Leganes, Girona and Athletic Bilbao all unsettled Barca by pressing high up the pitch. That Tottenham did not will bring questions, but it may simply be that the players are not fresh enough to play with that intensity. Inter’s win at PSV, to join Barcelona on six points atop the group, makes Spurs’ task even harder.

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Liverpool downed at the death in Naples

Lorenzo Insigne struck in the final minute, as Napoli inflicted on Liverpool its first defeat of the season when fielding a first-choice squad (its League Cup defeat to Chelsea featured a mixed bag in the starting XI). Napoli and Liverpool have been two of the most exciting sides in Europe over the past couple of years, but this was a disjointed game that Napoli increasingly shaded the longer it went on.

Jurgen Klopp’s side, having begun the group with a 3-2 home victory over PSG, turned in by some distance its least impressive performance of the season, but providing there are no surprises in the two games against Red Star Belgrade, it remains in a strong position.

As at Chelsea on Saturday, Liverpool’s fullbacks were notably less attack-minded than they were for most of last season, and that, in turn, had an impact on the wide forwards. Mohamed Salah, again, offered far less of a threat than he had last season, and Liverpool’s fluency wasn’t helped by the loss of Naby Keita to a first-half injury.

Napoli had the better of the game, with Dries Mertens thumping a volley against the crossbar and Joe Gomez clearing a Callejon effort off the line, but just as it seemed Liverpool would cling on, Callejon got in behind Andy Robertson and Insigne prodded in his low cross, sending Carlo Ancelotti's side top of the group after two matches.

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Monaco's misery continues

Monaco’s miserable start to the season continued with a 3-0 defeat at Borussia Dortmund. A the semifinalist just two seasons ago, Monaco has seen almost all of its best talent depart over the past two summers, and it has won just once all season and sits third from the bottom of the French league. It had begun its Champions League campaign with a 2-1 home defeat to Atletico Madrid and now faces a battle with Club Brugge, whom it faces next, even to finish third and qualify for the Europa League knockout stage.

Dortmund, meanwhile, sits happily top of the group after two straight wins, although it will face a far more testing examination in back-to-back games against Atletico. Substitute Jacob Bruun Larsen put Dortmund ahead six minutes into the second half after latching in to Jadon Sancho’s throughball. Paco Alcacer then missed a penalty before making amends three minutes later with the second, while Marco Reus got the third to wrap up the three points.

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