An own goal by Sebastian Coates gifted Barcelona a 1-0 win over Sporting Lisbon in the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League at the Estadio Jose Alvalade on Wednesday night.
Coates inadvertently chested into his own net four minutes into the second half after Luis Suarez failed to meet a cross from Lionel Messi. The fortuitous moment helped the Blaugrana maintain their perfect start to Group D.
Messi and Suarez were paired up top for the visitors, per Barcelona's official Twitter account:
FC Barcelona @FCBarcelona
⚽️ #SportingBarça Barça XI 🔵🔴 #ForçaBarça https://t.co/BFfipuxwJB2017-9-27 17:36:27
Meanwhile, the hosts included key young talents Gelson Martins, 22, and Bruno Fernandes, 23:
Sporting CP @Sporting_CP
Estes são os 11 Leões que vão começar o jogo frente ao Barcelona! #UCL #SCPFCB #DiaDeSporting https://t.co/vDPJCqaRPM2017-9-27 18:10:41
There were few chances in a cagey first 15 minutes, with Messi's curled free-kick the closest either side came to troubling a goalkeeper. Messi had gone close, but Suarez went even closer on 20 minutes, failing to tap in after a smart pull back from Jordi Alba.
Suarez almost made amends eight minutes later when he dropped a cross onto Messi's head, only for Rui Patricio to save well. At the other end, Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a diving save to deny Marcos Acuna, as Sporting showcased their own attacking threat.
The hosts were forced into an attacking change just before the half when Bas Dost replaced the injured Seydou Doumbia up front. Sporting adjusted well and preserved their clean sheet as the first half came to a close, leaving Messi, Suarez and Co. frustrated.
Barca's premier attacking talents couldn't break the deadlock in the first half, but the Messi and Suarez combination proved decisive after the break. The former's cross just eluded Suarez's attempts to head before going in off the chest of ex-Liverpool defender Coates.
Own goals have boosted the Blaugrana several times already this season, according to OptaJose:
2 - Barcelona top scorers this season (all comps): Lionel Messi 12 OWN GOALS 4 Bizarre. https://t.co/jeAixNgspE2017-9-27 20:01:23
Despite falling a goal behind, Sporting remained content to sit deep and strike on the break. Although their pace had posed problems on the counter, the hosts needed to show more initiative.
The impetus came when Dost robbed Sergi Roberto and teed up Fernandes, only for the midfielder to shoot straight at Ter Stegen. It was a chance wasted, but Dost's aerial power was causing Barca problems.
Another Dost header created a chance for William Carvalho, but the holding midfielder blazed over.
The visitors had escaped and were happy to play keep ball as the match entered its final five minutes. Paulinho replaced Andres Iniesta in midfield as manager Ernesto Valverde's side looked to see the game out.
Seeing things out is just what Paulinho and Co. managed as Barca made sure of a rare thing for the club, namely, an ugly win. There was little in the way of free-flowing football, but Valverde's men proved they can graft for a result when the style is missing.
It's a useful trait sure to make Barcelona a major threat in this season's competition.