Irresistible Barça brush Ajax aside

FC Barcelona 3-1 AFC Ajax
Goals from Neymar and Lionel Messi gave Barcelona control of the matchday three encounter to keep the pressure on the Group F leaders.

2014/15 flashback: Barcelona 3-1 Ajax
2014/15 flashback: Barcelona 3-1 Ajax

Lionel Messi masterclass takes him closer to all-time UEFA Champions League scoring record
Barcelona maintain 100% win record at home this season
Javier Mascherano's second consecutive game in central midfield is peerless
Scorers Neymar and Messi substituted early with view to Clásico in Madrid on Saturday
Sandro Ramírez restores two-goal cushion after Anwar El Ghazi's Ajax consolation
Next games: Ajax v Barcelona (5 November)

FC Barcelona produced their performance of the season to beat AFC Ajax 3-1 and keep the pressure on Group F leaders Paris Saint-Germain.

Neymar and Lionel Messi took the game away from the Dutch champions in a 17-minute first-half burst. From the first minute Luis Enrique's side played with zip and purpose. Ajax, given a four-goal beating the last time they played at Camp Nou, worked with intensity and intelligence to contain the threat but their being breached was just a matter of time.

When it came, the opener carried all the 'Barça' hallmarks. Gerard Piqué began the move and the ball fizzed between Ivan Rakitić, Pedro Rodríguez and Messi before his deft pass gave his Brazilian team-mate a sight of goal. Using the instep of his right boot Neymar curved a fabulous drive beyond Jasper Cillessen.

Next Marc Barta's laser-guided delivery helped set up Messi who scooped over – but his moment would arrive. Niki Zimling, aiming to find Lucas Andersen, had his pass intercepted by Javier Mascherano. He found Andrés Iniesta who executed the pass of the night and despite Cillessen touching Messi's finish it became his 69th goal in this competition, tied with Cristiano Ronaldo.

Kudos to Ajax. Under siege, lacking key players and gasping for oxygen, they tried to play. Combination football; flat-out efforts to mark Messi via a tag-team of Niklas Moisander, Zimling, Nick Viergever and Davy Klaassen. Valiantly though they worked, Messi has been given "total freedom" by his coach and he exploited it. Another combination between Bartra, Pedro and Messi left Pedro firing a fierce diagonal shot off Cillessen's post.

It meant Ajax were still in it and that impression was cemented when Cillessen conjured a prodigious save one-on-one to touch Iniesta's chip past the upright. Ajax couldn't allow the gift of that fingertip grasp on the game to escape them, yet while the second half showed them play with more conviction two big chances eluded Frank de Boer's men.

Ricardo van Rhijn sliced wide of Marc-André ter Stegen's goal when he was required to hit the target and, in the 62nd minute, Piqué's wild swipe at a cross sliced the ball up and onto the roof of his own net. But not in it. For most of the last quarter Enrique played without his goalscorers and Iniesta – with a view to facing Real Madrid CF this weekend.

Consequently the win ended with more game time for youngsters Munir El Haddadi, Rafinha and Sandro Ramírez – whose 94th-minute contribution was to restore the two-goal advantage following Ajax substitute Anwar El Ghazi's strike.