Viktoria Plzen 2-4 Barcelona: Bittersweet ending to the Champions League
Barcelona are out but finished with a win and Pablo Torre scored a goal on his full debut
The Champions League last 16 was out of reach and Europa League qualification was already locked in, but Barcelona still wanted to end their campaign with a win, which they managed at pointless Viktoria Plzen.
Ferran Torres hit a brace as Barcelona triumphed on the road, netting their first away goals in the tournament after drawing blanks at Bayern and Inter, results which cost them dear.
Xavi experimented, with Franck Kessie as pivot, which didn’t suit him particularly well, while Pablo Torre had a mixed night starting in midfield.
Barcelona took the lead after six minutes when Marcos Alonso bundled home from almost on the goal-line when Ansu Fati’s shot squeezed past the goalkeeper but was about to be cleared off the line.
It was a good start for the Catalans in the quest to salvage some pride – and the UEFA win bonus – but Plzen nearly hit back when Tomas Chory turned a cross against the bar.
Ansu Fati was sniffing around at the other end and fired over as Barcelona looked to double their lead.
Inaki Pena, on his Barcelona debut, was called upon to deny Lukas Kalvach as Plzen tried to ensure they finished on at least a point in Group C after five straight defeats.
Ansu should have scored at the other end but the youth player, freshly 20 and desperate for a goal, could not turn home a cross on the slide with the goal gaping.
It was an open, end-to-end game, and a great run by Adam Vlkanova ended up with him firing narrowly over.
Ferran Torres rushed a shot over to end a Barcelona break, following a nice threaded ball to him by Raphinha, who had otherwise been quiet.
Unlike against Valencia, Ferran did socre from a few yards out but offside was given against Jordi Alba in the build up, until VAR gave the referee new information and it stood.
That could have been game over but Pablo Torre bundled over a Plzen player in the box and Chory stuck away the spot kick, sending Pena the wrong way.
Ferran struck again for Barcelona soon after though, combining well with Raphinha and squeezing an effort home.
Pena was called into action to deny Vlkanova but he could not keep out Chory’s header as Plzen cut Barcelona’s lead to one.
There was more bad news as Kessie limped off injured, with Marc Casado replacing him for his first team debut.
Torre blasted home Barcelona’s fourth goal after a fine pass by Raphinha over the top, but hurt himself during the shot and had to go off, replaced by Alvaro Sanz.
Erik Jirka hit the post as the Czechs refused to give up, on what was at least a fun night for them. And one where Barcelona avoided humiliation, at least.