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Barça exit UCL with victory in six-goal thriller

Barcelona ended their UEFA Champions League (UCL) campaign on a high by defeating Viktoria Plzeň 4-2 at the Doosan Arena. The Czech champions equalled the record for the most goals conceded in the group phase of the competition (24).

With both sides already eliminated, there was nothing but pride on the line in the Czech Republic, and Xavi Hernández used this opportunity to experiment with his squad. His much-changed outfit were ahead inside six minutes, when Marcos Alonso was first to respond to Ansu Fati’s shot being parried onto the line, slamming home his first ever Barcelona goal.

Michal Bílek’s men absorbed plenty of pressure from the visitors’ hugely impressive start, and soon grew into the game and created some of their own chances. Stand-in Barça goalkeeper Iñaki Peña was forced to deny Lukáš Kalvach, after Tomáš Chorý had headed against the bar. Plzeň’s failure to take those chances would be punished on the stroke of HT, as Raphinha’s incisive lofted ball allowed Jordi Alba to nod across goal, where Ferran Torres was waiting to slam home from close range.

The hosts had threatened to get on the scoresheet before the break, and made a breakthrough in the early stages of the second half from the penalty spot. After being brought down by debutant Pablo Torre inside the area, Chorý picked himself up and dispatched from 12 yards to reduce the arrears. Hope of an unlikely comeback lasted less than two minutes as Barcelona turned on the style to score again. Torres and Raphinha linked up gloriously on the inside right before the Spaniard fired into the back of the net.

Plzeň refused to lie down though, wanting to avoid the unenviable record of losing all six group stage games. They were taking advantage of the Blaugrana’s inability to defend high balls into the area, with the six-foot-six striker Chorý only too happy to capitalise and nod home his second of the night.

The visitors were able to reassert their authority on the contest and put it to bed with an emphatic fourth goal. Torre atoned for conceding the penalty with an emphatic finish to net his first goal for the club, ensuring Barcelona avoided losing four consecutive UCL away games for the first time this century.

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