Barcelona opens Champions League with rout of Antwerp
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — 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.
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.
“I’m happy, I’m having fun,” Félix said. “The team has been playing very well. But the hardest part is to be able to keep playing at a high level. We have to keep working hard.”
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.
“João Félix has a lot of quality and has been showing it,” Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong said. “We hope that he can continue like this because he can help us a lot.”
Lamine Yamal replaced Félix to become the youngest Barcelona player to appear in the Champions League. At 16 years, 68 days, he is the second-youngest player to appear in the competition after Dortmund striker Youssoufa Moukoko (16 years, 18 days), who made his debut in 2020.
Barcelona dominated from the start and finished with 22 total attempts, against only three by Antwerp.
“I'm very satisfied with the result and with how we played,” Barcelona coach Xavi said. "
The Catalan club 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.
“It was a good start for us in the Champions League this season,” De Jong said. “We have a squad with a lot of talent and if we keep working like this we can achieve many things.”
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.
“This is a very young team, this was a big step for a lot of boys and we shouldn’t tear ourselves down for this," Antwerp defender Toby Alderweireld said. “We didn’t come here to take the three points, we have to stay realistic. This is the absolute top of Europe. We knew in advance that this was possible. We had to hope that they had a bad day and that was not the situation.”
The Belgian club is coached by former Barcelona player Mark van Bommel, who won the Champions League with the Catalan club alongside Xavi in 2006.
Barcelona next visits Porto, while Antwerp hosts Shakhtar Donetsk. Porto won 3-1 at Shakhtar on Tuesday.
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