Commencing their 2023/24 UEFA Champions League campaign at the Estadi Olímpic Lluis Companys, rather than the beloved Spotify Camp Nou, Barcelona welcomed Royal Antwerp to Catalunya on Tuesday. With their Belgian opposition not expected to really pose a threat for the Blaugrana, the question ahead of kickoff wasn’t whether Barcelona would win – it was how much would they win by?
BAR: Ter Stegen; Baldé, Christensen, Koundé, Cancelo; Gavi, De Jong, Gündogan; Félix, Lewandowski, Raphinha
ANT: Butez; Wijndal, Coulibaly, Alderweireld, Bataille; Keita, Vermeeren; Balikwisha, Ekkelenkamp, Muja; Janssen
Three goals in little over twenty minutes had put Royal Antwerp’s hopes of a shock result to bed, with João Félix opening the scoring early on. Ilkay Gündogan’s pass for the Portugal international was sublime, allowing the former Chelsea loanee to take a touch and thread an effort into the bottom-left corner past a despairing Jean Butez.
Merely eight minutes later, Robert Lewandowski would double the home advantage – with Frankie De Jong initiating the move, playing Félix through on goal. Cutting inside from the left flank, the goalscorer opted to chip the ball for his Polish teammate, who slammed a first-time volley into the back of the net.
Xavi’s men would soon be three goals to the good, as an own goal from Jelle Bataille caught Butez off guard. Raphinha’s ball in from the left deflected off the unlucky Antwerp defender, striking the woodwork before tricking over the line and past Butez.
Antwerp were lucky to be trailing by just three goals at the half-time interval, given that there had been a flurry of late chances for Félix and Alejandro Baldé – but they had created a chance of their own, though Arbnor Muja failed to threaten Marc-André Ter Stegen with a tame effort.
Gavi netted his first UEFA Champions League goal less than ten minutes into the second half, with the Spaniard arriving into the box to latch onto Lewandowski’s lay-off and thump an effort into the roof of the net.
Barça’s fifth and final goal of the evening would arrive in the 66th minute, with Raphinha jinking past the Antwerp defence before pinging a delightful cross into the area for Félix – who made no mistake with a simple finish at the back post to round out a comprehensive victory for the Blaugrana.
Xavi’s men travel to Porto on 4 October to continue their UEFA Champions League journey, while Royal Antwerp prepare to host Shakhtar Donetsk on the same date.