Barcelona produce vital Champions League win as Gerard Pique sets new record

Spaniard with the only goal against Dynamo Kiev to become highest-scoring defender in competition's history

Gerard Pique revived Barcelona's Champions League campaign with the only goal against Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday as the Catalans recorded a vital win and confidence-booster ahead Sunday's clasico.

After successive 3-0 defeats to Bayern Munich and Benfica, Barca faced an immediate uphill task of qualifying out of Group E, but Pique's 36th-minute goal - his 16th in the Champions League to become the joint highest scoring defender in the competition's history - has given them a lifeline.

Following Benfica's 4-0 home defeat to Bayern, Barca have moved to within one point of the Portuguese side, while the imperious Germans made it a perfect nine points from three games, scoring 12 and conceding none.

“After the first two group games, with no points and no goals, this victory was so important to give ourselves a chance to be in the mix until the end of the group stage,” Pique said.

It was Barcelona’s second successive win in all competitions for the first time this season, following the 3-1 victory over Valencia in La Liga on Sunday, and provides some much-needed signs of momentum before they face rivals Real Madrid at the Camp Nou on Sunday.

“We can’t waste so many opportunities, we were playing for our lives,” Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman said. “We could have scored more.”

Pique opened the scoring with a one-time finish from close range after a cross by Jordi Alba, joining former Real Madrid left back Roberto Carlos as the top-scoring defender in the Champions League. Pique had been tied with former Madrid central defenders Sergio Ramos and Ivan Helguera with 15 goals.

“For a defender he has scored a lot of goals,” Alba said of Pique. “I asked him to thank me for it … As a kid, he loved to go up and play as a striker so he’s a good finisher.”

Pique, 34, also became the oldest Champions League scorer for the Catalan club, surpassing Sylvinho, who was 19 days younger when he netted against Shakhtar Donetsk in 2008.

Striker Sergio Aguero came off the bench for the final 15 minutes to replace Memphis Depay and make his second appearance for Barcelona since joining the club from Manchester City this season.

Barcelona had never lost more than two group-stage games since 1997-98.

Dynamo had opened with a home draw against Benfica before losing 5-0 at Bayern in a result that equalled their heaviest defeat in a UEFA club competition.

“It was a deserved win for Barcelona,” Dynamo coach Mircea Lucescu said. “They beat us due to their experience and aggressive pressing. We committed errors in our half of the pitch that ended up becoming moments in front of our goal.”

Juventus stay top in Group H

Juventus continued their fine form to remain top of Group H after substitute Dejan Kulusevski scored late to earn his side a 1-0 win at Zenit St Petersburg.

Kulusevski headed in the only goal of the match four minutes from time as Juventus added to their wins against Malmo and Chelsea.

“I’m very happy for the team and for myself, it’s my first goal in the Champions League,” said Kulusevski, who was brought on in the 58th minute. “It’s a very important win for the team. I tried to make the difference when I came on but it was very difficult at the beginning. But the ball can come to you at any time. I was ready at the right moment.”

After struggling for form at the start of the season, Juventus have now won seven games in a row in all competitions, but manager Massimiliano Allegri has demanded more from his players.

“In two weeks we could be playing to qualify for the next round, but we didn’t have a good performance today,” Allegri said. “We were slow and we made a lot of mistakes.”

Updated: October 21st 2021, 4:40 AM
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