By 90Min
November 28, 2018

Barcelona cemented their position at the top of their UEFA Champions League group after defeating PSV Eindhoven 2-1 at the Philips Stadion, in their penultimate group game of the competition.

Lionel Messi's 61st minute strike opened the scoring before Gerard Piqué doubled their lead in the 70th minute, after the Dutch outfit struck the woodwork three times in the first half.

Skipper Luuk de Jong halved the deficit in the 82nd minute for the home side with a header, but Ernesto Valverde's men held on to secure the victory as the Catalan outfit won their group for a record 20th occasion.


PSV EINDHOVEN


Key Talking Point

The hosts started well and put their opponents under pressure from the first whistle. They forced numerous errors from their more-experienced counterparts (who were keen to play the ball out from the back) and had some great opportunities, including two efforts from Gastón Pereiro, the first of which hit the woodwork and the second looping over the bar from close-range.

The Dutch side then suffered spells of sustained pressure as their opponents got a foot hold of the game, but they ended the first period as they started it. They mounted the pressure on their opponents from set-pieces and they struck the woodwork twice more, through skipper De Jong and then Denzel Dumfries before the interval.

Eindhoven approached the second period in similar fashion to the first, creating several big chances. However, in going forward, they were susceptible on the counter-attack and were made to rue their missed opportunities with Messi and Piqué capitalising.

They were deserving of their goal, which reduced the deficit, but it wasn't enough to salvage a point.


Player Ratings


Starting XI: Zoet (5); Dumfries (6), Schwaab (5), Viergever (6), Angeliño (6); Rosario (6), Hendrix (6); Lozano (6), Pereiro (6), Bergwijn (6); De Jong (7*).


Substitutes: Gutiérrez (N/A), Malen (N/A), Romero (N/A).


STAR MAN - De Jong was terrific for the hosts. He was the focal point for the side and was involved in almost everything positive. He was an aerial threat and caused Clément Lenglet and Piqué a number of problems and also teed-up Pereiro on a few occasions during the match. He deservedly got his goal with a well-placed header and on another night could have given the side the lead earlier in the match, with a header that struck the bar in the first-half.

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WORST PLAYER - It seems harsh to award someone with this accolade considering the team's overall commitment and performance, but Lozano squandered some glaring opportunities, which could have made the difference on the night. He did cause the Barcelona defence a few nervous moments, but the Mexican lacked the final product tonight, especially in regards to his finishing.


BARCELONA


Key Talking Point


The Catalans looked uncomfortable on the ball much due to their opponents, who pegged them back into their own-half in the early stages of the game. There was no rhythm to Barcelona's game for the most part of the first-half, they were sloppy in possession, with some of their most reliable players losing the ball too easily in their own final third.

The Blaugrana grew into the game after the half-hour mark, looking like their more usual selves, with a nice tempo to their passing, which at times, was too much for the home side to deal with. They were missing the presence of Luis Suárez up front, but did pose a threat from set-pieces with Arturo Vidal twice going close, only to be denied on the line. 

TF-Images/GettyImages

The visitors were a danger on the counter-attack, with the pace of Messi and Ousmane Dembélé causing several issues. Their threat eventually paid off when the two combined, resulting in Messi curling into the top corner of the near post. The goal set Barça off and they added to their tally with Piqué guiding home Messi's free kick.

However, they weren't at their best defensively and couldn't deal with the aerial presence of De Jong, who headed home to prevent Valverde's men from keeping a clean sheet.


Player Ratings


Starting XI: Ter Stegen (6); Semedo (6), Piqué (7) Lenglet (5), Alba (6); Rakitić (5), Busquets (5), Vidal (6); Dembélé (6), Messi (8*), Coutinho (6).


Substitutes: D. Suárez (N/A), Malcom (5).


STAR MAN - Messi made the difference once again for Barcelona. Without the injured Suárez, the Argentine looked to win the game on his own, finding pockets of space and linking up with his attacking teammates, which was a feature in the opener. The goal itself was taken brilliantly, he shifted the ball inside and out before firing home into the top-corner of the near-post, with a rasping snap-shot that left Jeroen Zoet with no chance.

He also showed great awareness to find Piqué, who latched onto the striker's free kick and guided the ball home for the decisive second goal.


WORST PLAYER - Ivan Rakitić was considerably below his usual best. His distribution was unusually poor, he made several misplaced passes deep in his own-half in the first period, which fortunately for him, went unpunished. He also wasn't able to get further forward either, much to the credit of their opponents, who restricted the presence of the Croat, whose only meaningful contribution was a strike that cleared the bar.


Looking Ahead

Next up for PSV is a tough trip to third-place Feyenoord. A victory extend their perfect run of league victories to 14 matches.

Meanwhile, Barcelona host 16th placed Villarreal, hoping to get back to winning ways following a draw last time out to Atlético Madrid and a surprise defeat at home to Real Betis.

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