After consecutive group-stage eliminations, Barcelona delivered a football masterclass to debutants Antwerp, taking control of possession with swift passing. In a display of fine attacking football, Félix, Robert Lewandowski, and Gavi all found the back of the net.
“This is probably the best quality of play we’ve produced since I took over,” said coach Xavi Hernandez. “This is the road we want to be on. The team’s making me proud.”
Last-minute signing João Félix opened the scoring in the 11th minute with a low strike inside the near post. He then set up Robert Lewandowski eight minutes later to double the lead. Lewandowski joined an elite club, becoming the third player to score 100 goals in European competition after Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Barcelona’s dominance continued, and they extended their lead to 3-0 in the 22nd minute when Raphinha’s strike from a tight angle deflected off defender Jelle Bataille for an own goal.
Antwerp’s winger, Arbnor Muja, had an opportunity to provide a glimmer of hope just before halftime, but his low effort from the edge of the box was saved by goalkeeper Marc Andre ter Stegen.
In the second half, Barcelona remained determined to increase their advantage in their 28th Champions League group-stage campaign, a competition record shared with Real Madrid. Gavi made it 4-0 by smashing the ball into the roof of the net before João Félix added another goal with a header to complete the rout.
Barcelona’s dominance was evident in their 22 goal attempts compared to Antwerp’s three. Despite Antwerp’s historic qualification for the Champions League after winning their domestic league title for the first time in over 60 years last season, they struggled against Barcelona’s superior performance.
Mark van Bommel, the coach of Antwerp, acknowledged Barcelona’s excellence, saying, “They are on top of the world. That makes sense, they keep playing, tapping, turning, that’s where we have to go, but we’re still a long way from that. That is a very big learning moment for us.”
In another Group H clash, Porto defeated Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk 3-1 in Hamburg.
(With Reuters inputs)