Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press
Tottenham Hotspur advanced to the knockout phase of the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday after they earned a 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou.
Spurs needed to match Inter’s result at home to PSV Eindhoven, and with the Italian side being held to a 1-1 draw at the San Siro, the Lilywhites progressed thanks to their one-goal advantage in head-to-head away goals against Inter.
Ousmane Dembele broke the deadlock in the seventh minute with a fine solo goal. After dispossessing Kyle Walker-Peters on the halfway line, the Frenchman showed off his searing pace to bear down on goal and applied a cool finish having evaded Harry Winks’ challenge.
Jasper Cillessen denied Heung-min Son and Harry Kane was guilty of missing an excellent chance too, while at the other end Philippe Coutinho hit the post.
With Spurs needing an equaliser, Lucas Moura stepped up with five minutes of normal time remaining as he finished Kane’s pass from close range.
Barcelona Depth Makes Them Champions League Favourites
Having already won the group, Barca could afford to rest a number of key players on Tuesday.
Despite that, they were still able to name a side far more valuable than Spurs’ lineup, as football writers Matt Barlow and Daniel Storey noted:
Matt Barlow @Matt_Barlow_DM
Barcelona’s weakened team includes a player who cost £135m and another who cost even more
Daniel Storey @danielstorey85
Barcelona have rested most of their team and yet still start two players (Dembele and Coutinho) who cost almost double the amount of Tottenham’s entire XI.
Dembele has been impressing with his performances in recent weeks, and he wasted no time in showing that he can be decisive in Messi’s absence, too:
Football on BT Sport @btsportfootball
It’s a nightmare start for Spurs…
From a free-kick in an attacking area to conceding a goal in seconds 👀
Ousmane Dembele, absolutely ruthless ⚡️ https://t.co/Ka15xNZUQg
Meanwhile, Grup 14’s Rafael Hernandez was excited to see Cillessen play well as he denied Son with a fine save:
Rafael Hernández @RafaelH117
It’s that time of the year we rediscover Cillessen’s the best backup goalkeeper in the world.
Barca aren’t likely to rotate this heavily in the knockout phase, but if they have injuries or suspensions to deal with, it’s clear they have excellent strength in depth in a number of positions.
Given the quality of both their first-team stars and the back-ups they can call on, they should be considered the favourites to win the Champions League this season.
Kyle Walker-Peters Not Ready for the Big Stage
Even without Messi to contend with, playing at the Camp Nou was always going to be an enormous ask of Walker-Peters in what was just the 12th senior appearance of his career.
Instead of Messi, it was Dembele—who is one month his junior—who quickly showed him he was out of his depth when he harried him out of possession for Barcelona’s goal.
Five minutes after the goal, Walker-Peters was booked for a foul on Dembele.
Football journalist Tim Vickery suggested an early substitution might have been in order:
The full-back made it until the hour-mark before he was hauled off, and the Evening Standard‘s Dan Kilpatrick felt he had not fared well after being thrown in at the deep end:
He did enjoy a moment of redemption before his exit, though, per Football.London’s Alasdair Gold:
While it was ultimately a difficult night for the youngster, it’s difficult to place too much blame on his shoulders given his inexperience.
At the age of 21, he has only completed 90 minutes of first-team football on five occasions.
Players develop at different rates—not everyone is a teenage prodigy like Dembele was—but Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino should have played him more in less testing environments before calling on him against Barcelona.
Before Walker-Peters appears in another match of vital importance to Spurs, the manager needs to let him garner more experience so he’s better prepared.
Tottenham play Burnley on Saturday in the Premier League, while Barcelona travel to Levante on Sunday in La Liga.