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Rakitić fires Barcelona to victory at BATE

BATE 0-2 Barcelona
Ivan Rakitić came off the bench to score twice in the second half and earn the Group E pacesetters a comfortable three points in Belarus.

Watch Rakitić's Barcelona double
Watch Rakitić's Barcelona double
  • Barcelona comfortable winners in Borisov to extend Group E lead
  • Newly crowned Belarusian champions fail to seriously trouble Marc-André ter Stegen
  • First-half substitute Ivan Rakitić makes 48th-minute breakthrough
  • The Croat doubles up 19 minutes into second half from second Neymar assist
  • The teams meet again in the Camp Nou on 4 November

Barcelona moved three points clear at the UEFA Champions League Group E summit with a 2-0 triumph at BATE Borisov.

If BATE were relieved to emerge relatively unscathed from the first half, that sentiment barely survived the restart as Ivan Rakitić quickly netted with aplomb. The Croatia midfielder, an 18th-minute replacement for Sergi Roberto, scored again on 65 minutes to consolidate Barça's pole position above Bayer Leverkusen.

Sergei Chernik made early saves from Neymar and, from successive corners, Luis Suárez and Munir El Haddadi as Barcelona placed a firm grip on proceedings. The European champions' high pressing seemed to strangle their hosts at times, though the attacking plan from Aleksandr Yermakovich's men – when evident – was clear: try to get balls into the Barcelona box.

Ivan Rakitić celebrates with Luis Suárez
Ivan Rakitić celebrates with Luis Suárez©AFP/Getty Images

Four days after clinching their tenth consecutive Belarusian title, BATE were endeavouring to add to matchday two's scalp of Roma. With practice proving more difficult than theory, however, they were grateful to see Sergio Busquets' effort bounce a whisker wide on the half-hour. Luis Enrique's team had lost their previous two away games; the possibility of a third such defeat would have become more remote had Rakitić not wasted a free header from Daniel Alves's cross.

Neymar had scored four at the weekend yet when his curler went askew it confirmed a goalless first half. No matter, as three minutes after the interval the Brazilian teed up Rakitić to arrow in the opener from just outside the area. Neymar and Munir then shot narrowly wide, before the former picked out Rakitić for a glorious dink over Chernik.

To the home side's credit, Nikolai Signevich elicited two late saves from Marc-André ter Stegen in the wake of a barnstorming run from Filip Mladenović. It brought some small reward for the unrelenting Borisov-Arena supporters, but the points were emphatically Barcelona's.

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