Barcelona managed to do just enough and hung on to win 1-0 away to Porto in the second game of the Champions League group stage.
Ferran Torres, who replaced the injured Robert Lewandowski, scored the only goal of the game in first half stoppage time.
It wasn’t an easy win for the Catalan side as Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Ronald Araújo and Jules Koundé had to make saves or last-minute tackles to keep Porto from scoring. It was a win that in seasons past, Barcelona likely wouldn’t have escaped with.
“The victory must be emphasized,” said Araújo after the match. “This game, in other years, we would have lost. Now we are leaders and we have to take into account where we came from.”
The win sees Barcelona top their group with six points out of six. Given how the club has fared the past few seasons, getting an away win at perhaps the toughest opponent in the group is important. The performance, however, left a lot to be desired.
Perhaps that performance was somewhat expected given Barcelona were without Pedri, Frenkie de Jong, Raphinha and then Lewandowski also had to come off. Particularly with the first two, they add a dimension of control in midfield. In the case of De Jong, he’s also an outlet to play out from the back. Without him, Oriol Romeu had his worst game since arriving in the summer.
Factoring in the injuries and that it was their fourth game in 12 days, it was only natural for there to be some sort of fatigue and a dip in performance. The players know they must be better but aren’t taking any merit away from their win.
“Yes, it was a hard-fought victory, but in the end what matters is that we took away three points away from home and took another step towards our objective, which is to win every game and take all 18 points,” said Ter Stegen.
“Sometimes you have to suffer, not play so well and win. You have to improve things and this is the way.”
With the most difficult game out of the way and picking up a win, Barcelona are on a path that would see them top the group and reach the knockout phase of the Champions League for the first time in two years.