Barcelona manage to hang on to beat Shakhtar Donetsk

Ferran Torres, flanked by Fermin Lopez and Lamine Yamal, celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Champions League match between FC Barcelona and Shakhtar Donetsk at the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys in Barcelona on October 25, 2023. (Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)

On paper, Barcelona are a perfect three-for-three in the Champions League following a 2-1 win over Shakhtar Donetsk.

The performance, however, was anything but.

The Catalan side managed to cling to a one-goal lead in the second half to cement their status atop their Champions League group.

Xavi Hernandez sent out his best line-up given the amount of injuries, but giving a rest to Alejandro Balde and Andreas Christensen. Marcos Alonso and Iñigo Martinez were given the start.

The visitors stifled Barcelona in the opening 25 minutes with Barcelona unable to find create any opportunities either through the middle or on the wings.

But Barcelona finally broke through in the 28th minute through Ferran Torres. Torres picked up the rebound after Fermin Lopez controlled a pass from Ilkay Gundogan, brought it down with his chest, only to see his effort hit off the post. Torres then slammed the rebound into the back of the net. Initially called offside, the goal was given after a VAR review.

Barça may have felt they were going to cruise to a win after Fermin Lopez doubled the lead in the 36th minute. Torres laid off the ball to Lopez in the Shakhtar half and powered home a shot from outside the area for his first Champions League goal.

The Catalans came out in the second half in hopes of trying to put the game to rest. Things appeared to be going their way until the 62nd minute when Oriol Romeu was beaten for pace on what looked like an ordinary pass from just inside the Barcelona half. Heorhiy Sudakov was on the end of that pass and pulled one back for the visitors.

Finding a sense of renewed belief, the Ukrainian side were all over Barcelona for the remainder of the game. Had it not been for some opportune blocks and a lack of clinical finishing, Shakhtar could have earned a point.

It’s also fair to say Barcelona was denied a penalty after a handball in the box that neither the referee nor VAR deemed enough of a touch to call the penalty.

It certainly wasn’t a vintage performance and one would hope to see a better display even with the number of starters missing considering the two-goal advantage.

Xavi will certainly take the three points and worry about improving the performance later.

With the win, Barcelona have accumulated nine out of a possible nine points. With the most difficult match already over and done with — the away win to Porto — they are now in a solid position to get out of the group as leaders.

Their next match in the Champions League won’t be until Nov. 7 when they travel to Hamburg for a rematch against Shakhtar Donetsk.