Luis Enrique lauds lethal Barcelona

A "great" first half was the focus for Luis Enrique after FC Barcelona saw off AFC Ajax, with goalscorer Lionel Messi praising Neymar and hailing their partnership as "fun".

Neymar and Lionel Messi were on the mark as Barcelona brushed aside their opponents in the group stage at Camp Nou.

Luis Enrique praises Barcelona's first-half display in win over Ajax
Frank de Boer rues mistakes, saying "nobody to blame but ourselves"
Lionel Messi describes burgeoning partnership with Neymar as "fun"
Match report: Barcelona 3-1 Ajax
• Next games: Ajax v Barcelona (5 November)

Luis Enrique, Barcelona coach
I liked the game very much. In the first half we were much better and had plenty of chances. We just scored two goals but could have killed the game. I am satisfied with the result. We have reached our goal and have won on merit.

When the score was 2-0 we were not controlling the game the way we wanted but the players are not machines and can make mistakes. We could have pressed them better in the final part of the second half. There are always things to improve on but we do not need to look for excuses, because this is football – a game of mistakes. I believe we were much better than Ajax.

Yes, we played a great first half but for me as a coach it would not be logical to think that a team can play like that for 90 minutes. It depends on many things. We have to strive to be a stable team. But it is against logic to hope that my team would play the whole season like we did in the first half.

The key was to not let them build up from the back, apply pressure, not let them play. And they hardly created anything in the first 45 minutes. I am here for the team to improve, for the team to be a team and get better in all aspects of the game.

Messi relishing Neymar connection
Messi relishing Neymar connection

Frank de Boer, Ajax coach
I asked the team to demonstrate our class but I did not see it in the first half. We did not show that we could play football and had just one tiny chance, but the players lifted themselves in the second and improved. In the end we did all we could to get the result but it was not enough. But it was important that we played better in the second half, that players take part in such matches and get experience. I want to see such proactiveness from the off, not only after the break.

When [Luis Enrique] was taking off his best players it was clear he was already thinking about the next game [against Real Madrid CF on Saturday]. We just lacked a bit of luck. We scored one, had other chances, and who knows how it could have ended. We are inferior [compared with the last season]. Last year we had a completely different midfield and now we have lost some players to injuries. It is not an excuse; however, it is midfield that dictates the tempo of the game.

Neymar and Messi are like [Gareth] Bale and [Cristiano] Ronaldo. Their level is out of this world. In every match they perform at an extraordinary level. But I believe that Joël Veltman and Ricardo van Rhijn did well. There were a lot of one-on-one situations but they fought until the very end and Messi did not have that many opportunities. The problem for me is that we treated Barcelona with too much respect. Their first goal was fantastic, world class. But for the second we have nobody to blame but ourselves. You cannot make such mistakes against Barcelona.

Lionel Messi celebrates against Ajax
Lionel Messi celebrates against Ajax©AFP/Getty Images

Lionel Messi, Barcelona forward
I am not certain whether that was the best Barcelona performance of the season but it was a really good first half and we probably could have scored a couple more. Despite that, it is good that we won and wrapped up three points. That was important.

It is good that Neymar and I are in form together, looking for each other with the ball, and having fun. It is done for the good of the team. It is done so that the team can win. That is the crucial thing. Of course I hope that Neymar and I can continue playing like this and enjoying it.

It was great to see a young lad [goalscorer Sandro Ramírez] from the youth set-up, in fact a few of them, coming on at a time like this in an important match. They need the minutes for experience and our coach trusts them.

Niklas Moisander, Ajax defender
It is hard to say the gap between the teams is narrowing because of a better scoreline [compared with last year]. In the first half we were nowhere to be seen and they could have led maybe 3-0 or 4-0. So we are not happy with that first half. Second half we really showed that we are perhaps closing the gap and when it was 2-1, we went all out for 2-2. The unfortunate thing is that they made it 3-1. I think the second half was positive for us but you just cannot start a game like that because if you let them get to 2-0 then it is really difficult to win.

Ajax defender Ricardo van Rhijn reacts
Ajax defender Ricardo van Rhijn reacts©AFP/Getty Images

The main thing at half-time was to play with confidence, which is what we did not show in the first half. We said we have nothing to lose here and said we just have to show our skills. I think we began to do that and our young players did a good job. But honestly I think Barcelona deserved to win. Barcelona showed some small changes [from last season]. They used high pressure and it was like it was in their best years and we really could not keep the ball at all.

Marc Bartra, Barcelona defender
It was really important to win given that we lost the last group game. It was key that we produced a good performance. In the first half I reckon we saw a terrific version of Barcelona, lots of chances and playing the ball out well from the back. That is the road we need to follow.

It is true that in the second half we could, should, have scored again and put the game to bed. Because we did not do that, Ajax continued to play their game and began to be more in control of the match, but in spite of that we won and that is what mattered.

Pedro Rodríguez, Barcelona forward
The first half was good, a fine performance, really quick with loads of chances. The win and the work the team put in make this a good night. It was vital we did not trip up. I am fine, above all I am fine physically, getting more game time to work with my team-mates. It is a pity I did not bury my chance when it fell to me but I will just get back to work now and ensure I am at my best to help the team every day.

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