Barcelona not only won UEFA Champions League Group E but did so with immense panache in a 6-1 demolition of AS Roma.
Despite the absence of Andrés Iniesta and Javier Mascherano, the already qualified holders raced into top gear within the first few minutes and two goals in four minutes, from Luis Suárez then Lionel Messi, put them firmly in control.
Their second sublime performance in the space of four days, following Saturday’s 4-0 victory over Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu, marks Spain and Europe’s reigning champions as being in their best form since at least June when they won this competition.
The opener came after Wojciech Szczęsny had pulled off a terrific stop from Messi; the Argentinian had raked a shot just wide; and the officials ruled offside his sixth-minute tap-in. Neymar started it with a pass from deep, Dani Alves collected and squared, and there was Suárez to finesse the ball across the line.
One very quickly became two courtesy of a magical goal. Every player in the home team bar Marc-André ter Stegen touched the ball at least once before a lightning set of inter-passes between all three strikers set Messi up to loft over Szczęsny.
Just before half-time the ‘Oh!’ expression on Luis Enrique’s face – as he rose to acclaim Suárez’s second, a volley across the penalty area into the far panel of the Roma net – told everything about the quality.
The second half brought no respite as Suárez and Messi linked up to tee up Gerard Piqué for 4-0. Then Barcelona’s ‘Trident’ combined as Neymar and Suárez provided for Messi to make it five.
To cap a special night, a rare goal arrived for substitute Adriano after Roma’s keeper had saved Neymar’s penalty – a feat almost immediately emulated by Ter Stegen from Edin Džeko’s spot kick. What consolation there was for the Bosnian in his late headed goal is hard to imagine.
Key player: Luis Suárez
On a night of such sustained excellence, when the side functioned almost to textbook standards, it is hard to single out one man. But Suárez epitomised everything great about this thumping win. Two goals, constant work, generosity, vision, technique and that glorious volley for 3-0.
Where the match was won
The absolute blitzkrieg of the first 18 minutes. Three golden chances plus two exquisite goals before Roma even got started. High class, high-speed football.
Could this be the beginning of a double treble?
Don’t mention the idea to the ultra-strict Barcelona boss who echoes Josep Guardiola’s old theme that ‘victory and plaudits make you weak’ – but if this isn’t form to make Europe quake then what is?