MX23RW : Sunday, November 18 01:56:50

Match Analysis: Barcelona 1-0 APOEL

Sports Mole dissects the action as Barcelona start their Champions League Group F campaign with a 1-0 win over APOEL.

Gerard Pique's first-half header saw Barcelona beat APOEL in tonight's Champions League Group F clash in Spain.

Barcelona dominated long spells of the contest, but the away side had their moments in an entertaining affair.

The result has made the Catalan side early group leaders after Ajax drew 1-1 against Paris-Saint Germain.

Here, Sports Mole dissects the 90 minutes of action between the two European rivals.

Match statistics

Shots: 17
On target: 6
Possession: 67%
Corners: 8
Fouls: 15

Shots: 4
On target: 1
Possession: 33%
Corners: 4
Fouls: 12

Was the result fair?

The scoreline suggests that Barcelona struggled to the three points this evening, but that does not really tell the whole story. It is true that APOEL had their moments, especially in the second period, but Barcelona were in charge of the contest for long spells and should have won by a more comfortable margin. The away side must be praised for their defending, but they did not manage a single shot on target until the final minutes, when Barcelona's debut goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen was finally called into action. It was far from vintage from a Barcelona team that was full of youngsters, but it is the three points rather than the performance that is most important at this stage of the season.

Barcelona's performance

From Barcelona's 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao at the weekend, only Lionel Messi and Munir El-Haddadi were retained as head coach Luis Enrique made nine changes in total. Ter Stegen and Sergi Samper were both handed their full debuts, while Munir made his first Champions League start for the club. It was the same old Barcelona for long spells - in control of possession and fluid in the final third. However, they were guilty of playing one pass too many on a number of occasions. It seemed that the Spanish side would go on to win comfortably after taking the lead through Pique, but they were up against a well-drilled Cypriot side this evening. On another night, it would have been two or three goals to zero, with Neymar and Messi both coming close in the second period, but the Catalan outfit could not add to the first-half scoring. There is plenty still for Enrique to work on in the months ahead, but it was another clean sheet for his team tonight.

APOEL's performance

Few gave APOEL a chance of causing Barcelona problems this evening, but the Cypriot outfit put on a really impressive performance at the Camp Nou. As mentioned, they managed just the one shot on target, but there were two or three occasions in the second half when they had serious chances to find the back of the net. Barcelona, as expected, dominated the possession for much of the evening, but the away side were brilliant in defensive areas. It was not a full-strength Barca XI, but it was an attack that included Messi and Neymar, both of whom have been in fine form this season. In truth, whether APOEL qualify from this group was never going to depend on their result this evening, but they have shown that they can cause problems and neither Ajax nor Paris-Saint Germain will take them lightly. A special mention must be given to Brazilian centre-back Carlao, who recovered from a difficult start to produce a man-of-the-match performance tonight.

Sports Mole's man of the match

Carlao: The evening did not start too well for the APOEL centre-back, who made a number of rash challenges in the early exchanges. However, the 28-year-old overcame his problems to produce a dominant performance. Carlao was a major reason why Barcelona only managed to score once at the Camp Nou, with the defender making a number of crucial interceptions throughout the contest. Not only was the central defender impressive on the deck, he was really powerful in the air.

Biggest gaffe

Overall, APOEL defender Marios Antoniades had a solid game this evening. However, it was his mistake that ultimately led to Barcelona scoring the only goal of the match. It was not so much a mistake, rather a rash challenge on Brazilian right-back Dani Alves, with the resulting free kick taken by Messi and headed in by Pique. It was just one of a number of fouls that occured tonight, but it simply did not need to be made in that area of the field. That is without mentioning the fact that the tackle itself could have caused Alves a serious injury.

Referee performance

Referee Deniz Aytekin had a solid night at the Camp Nou. The 36-year-old was busy in the early stages due to a number of late challenges and he indeed issued two bookings in the opening 30 minutes, both of which came for APOEL. That was the last of the cards, however, as the German official gave a number of youngsters the benefit of the doubt. In truth, Aytekin was not seen for long spells of the match, which is always a good sign for a referee.

What next?

Barcelona: The Catalan outfit return to La Liga action away to basement side Levante on Sunday, looking to continue their 100% start to the season.

APOEL: APOEL will attempt to make it three wins from three in their domestic league when they travel to Ayia Napa on Saturday.

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Barcelona's defender Gerard Pique celebrates with Barcelona's midfielder Sergi Samper and Barcelona's forward Munir after scoring during the UEFA Champions League football match FC Barcelona vs APOEL FC at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on September 17
Read Next:
Result: Pique guides Barcelona to win in opener

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