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Messi boosts Barca as virus-hit Ronaldo rages

China Daily | Updated: 2020-10-30 09:18
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Leo in full flow, absent Cristiano slams swab test

Lionel Messi fires home from the penalty spot to seal a 2-0 victory for Barcelona over Juventus in Turin on Wednesday. AP

Cristiano Ronaldo missed Juventus' Champions League clash against Lionel Messi's Barcelona, two weeks after testing positive for coronavirus, with the Italian giant losing 2-0 at home on Wednesday in his absence.

Messi set up Ousmane Dembele to put Barca in front after quarter of an hour in Turin, adding a second himself from the penalty spot in stoppage time.

Alvaro Morata had three goals ruled out for offside for Juve, which played the final five minutes a man down after Merih Demiral was sent off for a second yellow card.

Before kickoff, Ronaldo vented his fury at missing the game, blasting the swab tests used to detect the coronavirus in an Instagram post which read: "PCR IS BULL****." PCR refers to the highly accurate polymerase chain reaction tests which analyze the genetic make up of the virus from a nasal or throat swab.

Barcelona is top of Group G with six points after two games, with Juventus on three.

"This was our best game all season," said Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman.

"This is a big win against an important European side and we were able to play the football we're trying to impose. I'm very happy with the game and the character displayed by the team, it is a great victory."

It was a first defeat for new Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo, whose last game as a player for the Turin giant was a loss to Barcelona in the 2015 Champions League final.

"We knew it would be a difficult game, they are further along the path, they have players more experienced in these games, while we are under construction," said Pirlo.

"We need to grow. I hope to have the other players back soon. I have no other solutions, those who play have to stay 90 minutes, so it's difficult when there are matches close together."

The 35-year-old Ronaldo, the top scorer in the history of the competition with 130 goals, was frustrated at missing the chance to face his old rival Messi.

The Portuguese superstar needed to test negative 24 hours before kickoff to take part in his sixth Champions League meeting against the Argentine.

They have not faced off since the five-time Ballon d'Or winner left Real Madrid for Juve in 2018.

Hours before kickoff, Ronaldo posted a photo on Instagram, stating: "Feeling good and healthy! Forza Juve! #finoallafine."

He followed that up with his blunt assessment of the coronavirus test, which he later deleted.

Ronaldo then posted a video of himself wearing the Juventus jersey running on a treadmill in his home gym, jumping off for his usual goal celebration before giving the thumbs-up and wishing his teammates good luck.

Ronaldo first tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct 13. He has reportedly tested positive 18 times.

Bouncing back

Barca entered the game with pressure building on Koeman in the wake of last Saturday's 3-1 La Liga defeat to Real Madrid and a 1-0 loss to Getafe the previous weekend.

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu resigned on Tuesday along with his board of directors, following mounting pressure from fans and his falling-out with six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi.

"After the defeat against Real Madrid it was important to get off to a good start," said Barca defender Sergi Roberto.

"We're delighted, there are only two goals' difference but it could have been a lot more. We dominated, we created chances."

Barcelona was firing on all cylinders with three early chances.

Juve goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny punched out a strike from former Juve midfielder Miralem Pjanic and an Antoine Griezmann follow-up hit the post.

The breakthrough came when Messi pinged a sublime cross-field ball for Dembele whose long-range effort deflected off Federico Chiesa to loop in over Szczesny.

Morata had the ball in the net soon after but the goal was ruled offside after a VAR review, with Messi sending the ball wide after 23 minutes off a Griezmann flick.

Morata latched onto a Juan Cuadrado cross to turn home after half an hour, but again he was ruled offside. A VAR review then denied him for a third time on 55 minutes.

Juventus saw Demiral dismissed in the closing minutes, and Messi sealed victory from the spot following a foul by Federico Bernardeschi on Ansu Fati for his 117th Champions League goal.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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