FC Barcelona 3-2 Club Brugge KV
FC Barcelona claimed a deserved victory over Club Brugge KV in their opening Group H UEFA Champions League match at the Camp Nou, despite a late rally from the Belgian side.
Barcelona, on imperious form, seemed to be strolling to victory at 3-1, but a late, deflected strike by Gaëtan Englebert made for a nervy finish for the Catalan club.
The first half was dominated by a bright, expansive Barcelona, under the guidance of Dutch coach Louis van Gaal. They changed the tempo of the game at will, with Xavi Hernández at the hub, conducting the Camp Nou orchestra. Chances fell liberally, and the hosts should have been home and dry at half-time. Brugge were not playing particularly badly - Barça were simply magnificent.
Paying the penalty
The only moment that upset the host's rhythm was the 22nd-minute penalty from Timmy Simons. Englebert was hauled down by the advancing Víctor Valdés as he sprinted into the box. A clear penalty, with which Simons made no mistake.
Aside from this momentary blemish, Barcelona were inspired in the first period, attacking with verve and pace. Patrick Kluivert was outstanding in retaining possession, and could have had a first-half double himself. An early one-on-one was well closed down by the veteran Brugge keeper Dany Verlinden, before the Dutch striker went even closer when his first time 42nd-minute shot came back off the crossbar.
The Camp Nou was not to be disappointed however. Luis Enrique set the tone as he seized on to a mis-hit shot by Fernando Navarro to drive low and hard into the net. Brugge equalised, but Gaizka Mendieta then put Van Gaal's team back in front from a free-kick, curling it in from the edge of the box.
Moment of genius
But the moment of the half belonged to Javier Saviola, as the diminutive Argentinian jinked past four players and stabbed the ball into the bottom corner of the goal to give the hosts a two-goal cushion.
Chances go begging
Barcelona were not quite as vibrant in the second half, but they continued to dominate in every area of the pitch. Mendieta consistently found space on the right wing, and chance after chance was spurned by his team-mates.
In an attempt to kill off the game, Van Gaal brought on Argentinian summer signing Juan Riquelme for Luis Enrique, and Barcelona slowed the tempo. But their hopes of strolling to the final whistle proved short-lived.
Back from the dead
There seemed to be little threat from Brugge, who struggled to retain the ball. The few chances they managed to create came courtesy of long balls launched forward from the back. Olivier de Cock, Brugge's right-back, refused to concede the game as lost though and dragged his side forward with some surging runs. And with only minutes to go, Englebert cropped up to ensure a gripping finish.