Barcelona lose again in CL with 3-0 defeat to Benfica

AP , Wednesday 29 Sep 2021

Benfica routed struggling Barcelona 3-0 in the Champions League on Wednesday, ending a 60-year winless streak against the Catalan club and handing Barcelona a second consecutive loss to start its European campaign.

Benfica s players celebrate their second goal during the UEFA Champions League first round group E footbal match between Benfica and Barcelona (AFP)

Darwin Nunez scored twice _ including three minutes into the match _ and Rafa Silva added another goal at the Stadium of Light to give Benfica its second victory in eight matches against the Spanish powerhouse, which had opened with a demoralizing 3-0 home loss against Bayern Munich.

Bayern cruised past Dynamo Kyiv in Germany in the other Group E match to reach six points from two matches. Benfica, which had opened with a draw at Dynamo, has four points, three more than Dynamo.

Barcelona, in last place without any points, suddenly sees itself in danger of not reaching the knockout stage for the first time since 2001. Last season Barcelona failed to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 2006-07, losing to Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16 and ending its record run of 13 consecutive last-eight appearances.

Without Lionel Messi for the first time in nearly two decades, Barcelona has won only one of its last five games in all competitions, a disappointing run that started with the loss to Bayern at the Camp Nou Stadium. It has won only three times in eight matches in all competitions this season.

It was Barcelona's fifth straight Champions League match without a win, with the Catalan club having conceded 14 goals during that run. It didn't have a single shot on target from eight attempts on Wednesday.

Benfica's only other victory against Barcelona had come in the 1961 European Cup final the first time the clubs met.

Benfica, which started its Champions League campaign in the third qualifying round, is unbeaten in 13 matches overall this season, with 11 wins.

The hosts opened the scoring in the game's first shot on goal in the third minute, with Nunez finding the net from inside the area after easily getting past Barcelona defender Eric Garcia, who was sent off with a second yellow card in the 87th.

Nunez almost added to the lead in the 52nd when Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen clumsily left his area and allowed the Uruguay forward to have an open shot into the net, which ended hitting the post from very long range.

Silva scored the second in the 69th from close range after a failed attempt by Joao Mario, and Nunez sealed the victory by converting a 79th-minute penalty kick after a handball by Barcelona defender Sergino Dest.

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman, a former Benfica manager who is under increased pressure at the Catalan club, started the match with three central defenders but switched formations just past the half-hour mark by replacing Gerard Pique with teenage midfielder Gavi.

Koeman had the return of Pedri Gonzalez to midfield after the youngster was sidelined by an injury layoff. Jordi Alba and Ousmane Dembele remain out injured.

Benfica lost forward Valentino Lazaro because of an injury before halftime.

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