Ronald Koeman reached a new low as Barcelona were beaten 3-0 away to Benfica on Wednesday, making it the first time in Champions League history that the Blaugrana have lost the first two games of a campaign.
Barca were comprehensively beaten 3-0 by Bayern Munich on matchday one and this was every bit as humiliating as the Catalans lost back-to-back group games in a single season for the first time since 2000-01.
A nightmare start quickly gave them an uphill battle as Darwin Nunez put Benfica ahead in the third minute, and although Barca were soon dominating, they were extremely wasteful in front of goal.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen got away with a dreadful error early in the second half but Benfica held firm at the back and eventually seized their opportunity to finish Barca off through Rafa Silva and a late Nunez penalty before Eric Garcia saw red to cap a dreadful night for Koeman.
Garcia offered little resistance as Nunez earned Benfica an early lead, the Uruguayan producing a couple of stepovers before finding the bottom-left corner.
Barca quickly began to dominate in response, but a fantastic Lucas Verissimo block prevented Luuk de Jong from finding an empty net.
Frenkie de Jong was similarly wasteful when prodding a low cross wide from close range, and Pedri – a surprise starter so soon after injury – shot agonisingly past the left-hand post a little later.
Ter Stegen summed up Barca’s poor decision-making early in the second half, bizarrely opting to rush out in an attempt to cut out a throughball and was beaten to it, but Nunez could only hit the post.
Luuk de Jong then somehow hit the upright from point-blank range at the other end, though an offside call against Ronald Araujo in the lead up spared his blushes somewhat.
Either way, Barca were made to rue their profligacy.
Silva slammed home from 10 yards after Ter Stegen parried a shot right to him and Nunez made it 3-0 with a cool penalty after Sergino Dest handled, with Garcia’s late red card for a cynical tug compounding Barca’s embarrassment.
What does it mean? Barca plumb new depths
The 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich was bad, but this was somehow worse. Granted, Barca had their fair share of chances, but they were utterly hapless in front of goal.
That is by no means where their faults end, however. Defensively they looked so fragile here, with Roman Yaremchuk and Nunez having a lot of joy.
Whether or not Barca can afford to sack Koeman is unclear, but the writing is surely on the wall after this.
Survival of the fittest
It is difficult to look beyond Nunez as the standout here. He perhaps could have done better with some of his shots, namely the one that hit the post of an open goal, but he was a regular threat and was key with his brace.
Pique has a night to forget
This was a difficult cameo to watch. Gerard Pique was taken out of the firing line with a little more than 30 minutes on the clock, with Koeman presumably considering him a red card risk. The centre-back was booked early on for tussling with Yaremchuk and he continued to have issues with Benfica’s physical frontmen.
Key Opta Facts
– Barcelona have lost their first two matches in a UEFA European campaign for the first time since the 1972-73 UEFA Cup, when they lost both legs to Porto and were eliminated.
– Benfica registered their joint-biggest Champions League win, equalling their 3-0 victories over Celtic in November 2006 and Zenit in December 2019.
– Despite only taking charge of eight Champions League group stage matches as Barcelona manager, only Louis van Gaal (5 in 32 games) has lost more such matches with Barca than Ronald Koeman (3 in 8 games).
– Nunez’s opening goal after 133 seconds for Benfica was the fastest conceded by Barcelona in a Champions League game since October 2019, when Lautaro Martinez scored for Internazionale after 119 seconds.
– Only one team has ever reached the Champions League knockout stages after losing their first two group stage matches with a goal difference of -6 or worse, as Barcelona have this season – Lyon in 2007-08, who reached the last 16.
Another tricky task awaits Barca as they go to defending champions Atletico Madrid in LaLiga on Saturday. Benfica host Portimonense the following day in the Primeira Liga.