Barcelona's blazing start to the year continued on Tuesday with a UEFA Champions League match 2-0 win over Benfica.
This was a well-played match with a few tense moments, but it was largely dominated by Barca and they essentially had the lead the entire match.
Barca wasted no time getting on the board, and to no surprise, it was Lionel Messi who set it up.
For the opening six minutes, Barcelona controlled the ball and maneuvered around the pitch—always in control and always looking for opportunity.
Benfica did muster one slight breakaway look in the opening six minutes, but it was stymied, and it was not long after that when Lionel Messi found some daylight.
After some quick passes, he found a break down the right edge of the box, and he sent a nice, low cross to the foot of Alexis Sánchez, who promptly redirected for a score from three yards out in the sixth minute.
The match was fairly uneventful for the next 50 minutes or so. Barcelona dominated possession, but Benfica did muster a few good looks. In fact, they were getting off more shots on goal than Barcelona.
But Barca kept plugging away, and when Cesc Fábregas broke away to take a Messi pass and netted a goal in the 55th minute, this match was all but over.
Barcelona is now 2-0 in Champions League play. Benfica falls to 0-1-1 in Champions League play.
It was not all good news for Barcelona on this day, though. Carles Puyol took a bad fall and his arm took the brunt of it.
The Daily Telegraph's Paul Hayward shared his impression of the injury.
Horrible injury to Puyol. Arm twisted behind him as he fell and ended up bent the wrong way. His bravery costs him. Hope swift recovery.— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) October 2, 2012
Just by the brutal visual of that terrible injury, you have to believe Puyol will be out for a while.
Key Benfica Player Grades
Artur did not have an enviable task in this matchup. He ended up with just three saves compared to two goals allowed.
It's not like the two goals can be placed solely on him (they were well-played strikes), but he didn't do anything in this match to warrant a higher grade.
Eduardo Salvio: B
Salvio played energetic and smart football. Like most of his teammates, he was overwhelmed on defense, but he made some nice runs up the pitch on offense and managed to fire off three shots on goal.
Key Barcelona Player Grades
Lionel Messi: A-
Messi was up to his usual brilliant tricks. While he didn't add a goal in this one, he played a nearly flawless match, and his assist on the first goal set the tone for this match in the very early going.
He then delivered another beauty to set up the second goal. When Messi had possession, he had Benfica overmatched.
Victor Valdés: B+
Valdés had a nice effort, and considering that Barca dominated possession he stayed fairly busy.
He registered seven saves on the day. None of them would fall in the spectacular category, but it was a solid and consistent effort, and just what his team needed.
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