Barcelona open Champions League with 5-0 rout of Antwerp

AP , Wednesday 20 Sep 2023

With João Félix thriving again, Barcelona got off to a good start on its quest to get through the group stage of the Champions League after two consecutive early eliminations.

Barcelona s Spanish midfielder #06 Gavi celebrates after scoring his team s fourth goal during the UEFA Champions League 1st round day 1 Group H football match between FC Barcelona and Royal Antwerp FC at the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys in Barcelona on September 19, 2023. Photo: AFP

Félix scored twice and had an assist on Tuesday in his second start with Barcelona, leading the Catalan club to a 5-0 win over newcomer Antwerp in Group H.

Félix, who joined Barcelona from Atletico Madrid, opened the scoring in the 11th minute and set up Robert Lewandowski’s goal in the 19th. Barcelona's third was an own-goal by Antwerp defender Jelle Bataille after a cross by Raphinha in the 22nd.

Gavi scored Barcelona’s fourth goal in the 54th, and Félix added his second with a header in the 66th.

The 23-year-old Félix also scored in the Spanish league on Saturday, as did his Portugal teammate João Cancelo, who also just joined the Catalan club and started again at the Olympic Stadium in Montjuic on Tuesday.

Félix got a loud ovation from the Barcelona fans as he was substituted in the 68th.

The five-time European champions are not playing at Camp Nou this season while the venue undergoes renovation work.

Barcelona has not reached the knockout round of the Champions League since Lionel Messi left the club in 2021. Before that, it had made it to through the group stage every year since 2001-02.

Barcelona also started with a rout last season — beating Viktoria Plzen 5-1 at home — but eventually finished third in a group in which Bayern Munich and Inter Milan advanced. In the previous season, it finished third behind Bayern and Benfica.

Barcelona was coming off four straight victories in the Spanish league, including another 5-0 rout on Saturday against Real Betis. It has outscored opponents 18-4 in its first six matches in all competitions.

Antwerp defeated Greek club AEK Athens in a playoff to reach he group stage for the first time. The Belgian club is coached by former Barcelona player Mark van Bommel, who won the Champions League with the Catalan club alongside current Barcelona coach Xavi in 2006.

Barcelona next visits Porto, while Antwerp hosts Shakhtar Donetsk. Porto won 3-1 at Shakhtar on Tuesday.

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