Lionel Messi, Jordi Alba key encouraging Barcelona performance vs. Tottenham
Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona ended a three-game winless run to beat Tottenham Hotspur 4-2 in the Champions League.
Barca took the lead inside the first two minutes when Philippe Coutinho drove home after Messi had released Jordi Alba.
Ivan Rakitic thumped home the La Liga side's second before the break with a volley but Harry Kane pulled one back for the home side in the second half. Messi quickly restored Barca's two-goal lead before Erik Lamela's deflected effort hauled Spurs back into the game once again.
However, Messi, who also hit the post twice, added his second late on to wrap up a second successive win for Ernesto Valverde's side in Europe, leaving Tottenham pointless.
After failing to beat Girona, Leganes or Athletic Bilbao, questions were asked of Barca. However, they responded on the pitch, producing, in spells, one of their better performances of the season. With a four-man midfield, they controlled the game, with Arthur particularly impressing. Messi's hunger to win the Champions League was once again in evidence: he has five goals in the competition through two games this season.
Despite returning to their roots for large parts of the game, Barca still looked ropey at the back. They let Tottenham back into the game twice and it's now four games without a clean sheet.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- After three poor games in a row, and under pressure from the local media, Valverde bravely twisted his pack, dropping Ousmane Dembele for Arthur in favour of a more possession-based side.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 7 -- Made one brilliant save in the first half when it looked like a deflection would carry the ball over him. Could do little about the two goals.
DF Nelson Semedo, 5 -- Was beaten too easily by Kane for the first Tottenham goal, going to ground when he shouldn't have, and was lucky at 3-2 not to be caught out by Lucas Moura when he dallied on the ball in the box.
DF Gerard Pique, 6 -- A better performance than he's offered in recent weeks but, along with the rest of the defence, was guilty of standing off too much in the build-up to Spurs' goals.
DF Clement Lenglet, 6 -- Like Pique, too static for the goals, with the second deflecting off him and past Ter Stegen. Made up for that late on with a brilliant block to deny Moura and a great header to keep Fernando Llorente out.
DF Jordi Alba, 8 -- Even at 4-2, he was still bombing forward, dominating the left flank. Set up three of the Barca goals: the first for Coutinho and both of Messi's efforts. More like the Alba of last season.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 7 -- Made up for a poor showing at the weekend with a thumping goal here. Both feet were off the ground as he hammered a volley passed Hugo Lloris. That should give him the confidence he has looked short of in recent weeks.
MF Sergio Busquets, 8 -- It's not surprising that he looked at his best in a four-man midfield. Benefitting from Arthur's presence, the veteran read the game well and was the base for Barca's attacks.
MF Arthur, 7 -- The surprise inclusion, the Brazilian showed glimpses of why he's been compared to Xavi. So strong on the ball, able to play the right pass first time and looking at home already in the Blaugrana shirt.
MF Philippe Coutinho, 6 -- Despite Lloris being caught in no man's land, still had work to do to open the scoring in the second minute from the edge of the box. However, lacked quality, surprisingly, at key moments in the second half.
FW Lionel Messi, 9 -- Brilliant pass to Alba parted the Red Sea in the build-up to Coutinho's opener. Then hit the post twice before scoring twice. Offered so much more than raw goal, assist and pre-assist statistics. Completely runs Barca's game in the opposition half and increasingly in deeper positions, too.
FW Luis Suarez, 7 -- Didn't score, but played a key role in Barca's win. Made two clever dummies, both leading to Messi's goals, and was a headache for the Tottenham defence all night.
MF Rafinha, N/R -- Came on for Coutinho to shore up Barca's two banks of four in defence.
MF Arturo Vidal, N/R -- A late introduction for Arthur, helping Barca see out the win.
DF Thomas Vermaelen, N/R -- Replaced Busquets in stoppage time on his return to London, where he used to play for Arsenal.