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Barcelona beats Shakhtar for third straight win in group stage of Champions League

Barcelona's Lamine Yamal Barcelona's Lamine Yamal - The Canadian Press

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona beat Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 on Wednesday to keep a perfect record and stay on course to advance to the knockout rounds of the Champions League after two straight group-stage eliminations.

Ferran Torres and Fermín López scored a goal each in the first half to help Barcelona secure its third straight victory in Group H. The Catalan club reached nine points, three more than Porto, which won 4-1 at winless Antwerp. Shakhtar stayed with three points.

Barcelona, the five-time European champion, hasn't advanced past the group stage since Lionel Messi left in 2021.

“It's a sign of progress for us to earn nine points in the first three matches,” Barcelona coach Xavi said. “We are not through to the next stage yet, but we took a step toward that.”

The victory kept the Spanish club unbeaten in 13 matches overall this season, with 10 wins and three draws.

Shakhtar, in the debut of new coach Marino Pušić, was trying to win consecutive Champions League matches for the first time in more than five years.

Torres put Barcelona ahead in the 28th with a volley from inside the area after López’s shot hit the woodwork.

López added to the lead in the 36th after clearing a defender just outside the area and firing a right-footed shot into the top corner. The ball hit the post before finding the net.

Shakhtar, which won at Antwerp in the previous round, pulled one closer with Georgiy Sudakov in a breakaway in the 62nd in what was the first goal conceded by Barcelona in the Champions League this season.

The Catalan club stayed mostly in control through end to secure the win, its fourth in the last five matches in all competitions.

Torres had a goal called off for offside in the 59th, and López had one disallowed for the same reason in the 60th, just after he had hit the post. Torres had scored the winner for Barcelona in its 1-0 win at Porto in the previous round.

“It was difficult, they have a good team, but we are happy with the victory and the nine points,” said the 20-year-old López, another product of Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy. “It was a key match to move us closer to qualifying to the next stage. We suffered a bit, but in the end we got the three points.”

Barcelona was without playmaker Gavi because of a suspension. Several regular starters including Robert Lewandowski, Frenkie de Jong and Pedri were out because of injuries. Xavi didn’t want to take any risks ahead of the match against Real Madrid on Saturday in the first “clasico” of the season in the Spanish league.

João Félix had to leave the match in the 75th with a minor knock. He was replaced by 17-year-old Marc Guiu, who on Sunday scored seconds into his first-team debut in a 1-0 win against Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish league.

Barcelona’s İlkay Gündoğan made his 100th UEFA competition appearance.

Pušić was appointed as Shakhtar coach a day before the match to replace Patrick van Leeuwen, who was fired last week after just 12 games in charge. Pušić joined from Dutch champion Feyenoord, where he was an assistant to coach Arne Slot.

“My team went through a lot of emotions,” Pušić said. "They’ve had three coaches in a few days. They are footballers but they are people too — we can’t forget that they have emotions. They showed up and competed with Barcelona tonight, so I’m enormously proud.”


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