Lionel Messi scored another penalty but Barcelona had Marc-Andre ter Stegen to thank for a nervy Champions League 2-1 win over Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday, which will do little to ease the pressure on coach Ronald Koeman.
Goalkeeper Ter Stegen had to make a string of excellent stops at Camp Nou to save Barca from slipping up against a depleted Dynamo side, who were without nine first-team players after they tested positive for coronavirus.
Viktor Tsygankov gave Dynamo hope with 15 minutes left after Messi scored a penalty and Gerard Pique headed in but Ter Stegen’s heroics ensured Barcelona held on for their third victory out of three in Group G.
Their 100 per cent record so far in the Champions League, which included an impressive performance away at Juventus last week, has come in stark contrast to a stumbling start to the season in La Liga.
A 1-1 draw away at Alaves on Saturday made it four league games without a win and leaves Barcelona sitting 12th in the table, eight points behind Real Madrid.
“In the Champions League we’re fine, in the league we have to change but I’m convinced we will,” said Pique. “The mood is better, there are new players, young players who are bringing dynamism to the group and the way we play.”
Victory against Dynamo was all-important for morale and for Koeman, whose future is uncertain given a new president will take over in the next three months after the resignation of Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Yet there were no celebrations from the players at full-time and Koeman’s face throughout was one of angst and frustration as Ter Stegen was repeatedly called upon.
“We are happy because we won,” said Koeman. “But we have to play better than we did today. We have to improve, above all without the ball, where we haven’t played well.”
– Ter Stegen stars –
Barca’s goalkeeper was making his first appearance of the season after recovering from a knee injury and the only rival for his brilliant display came in the opposition’s goal.
With Dynamo’s two first-choice keepers ill, the 18-year-old Ruslan Neshcheret was called up to make only his second senior appearance and he put on a superb display that included clawing out a Messi free-kick.
Barcelona were on top in the early stages as Messi won and then converted his fifth-minute penalty before Pedri struck the crossbar and Antoine Griezmann dragged wide at the far post with the corner gaping.
Pedri, Messi and Ansu Fati all went close with shots but Kiev survived and as the half wore on, found a way to make Barca feel uncomfortable.
Ter Stegen began by palming out Vitaliy Buyalskiy’s header and then Frenkie de Jong, being deployed at centre-back, was pushed off the ball too easily by Vladyslav Supryaha, who hit Ter Stegen’s right boot.
In between, Dynamo had a goal chalked off, Tomasz Kedziora’s header ruled out after the cross curled beyond the goalline and the visitors were punished for not making their pressure count.
Messi’s bending free-kick was brilliantly saved by Neshcheret but he could do nothing about Pique’s header just after the hour, the defender meeting Fati’s cross from the left and finding the far corner.
Buyalskiy was in again but again he hit Ter Stegen until finally the German was beaten as Tsygankov followed up Benjamin Verbic’s flicked finish.
There was still time for an equaliser but Dynamo failed to create the decisive chance.