KYIV: An inexperienced Barcelona side missing Lionel Messi eventually cruised to a 4-0 win away to Dynamo Kyiv on Tuesday to reach the Champions League knockout stages for the 17th consecutive season and continue their 100% start in the competition.
After a sluggish first half, the Catalans took the lead early in the second half as U.S international Sergino Dest completed a flowing move to score his first goal for the club since joining from Ajax Amsterdam in the close season.
Danish forward Martin Braithwaite soon doubled their lead with his first goal in Europe’s top competition at the age of 29, diving in from close range to turn in a flicked header from debutant defender Oscar Mingueza.
Braithwaite struck again in the 70th minute from the penalty spot while substitute Antoine Griezmann got the fourth goal in added time, rounding off a victory which took Group G leaders Barca on to 12 points from four games and clinched their place in the last 16.
“We’ve completed our objective, which was to qualify, and we gave a very positive image of ourselves,” said Barca coach Ronald Koeman.
“We played with a lot of energy and although we were not very effective in the first half, we dominated the second and had some very nice passages of play. Every player showed hunger and the young players gave good displays too.”
With his team on the verge of qualifying from the group and reeling from Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid in La Liga, Koeman made eight changes to his side, including keeping captain Messi and Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong at home.
French forwards Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele were also left out of the starters as Barca named their youngest starting 11 in a Champions League game in nine years, with an average age of 24.
Gerard Pique’s serious knee injury against Atletico left Barca with only one fit central defender and Koeman was forced to turn to 21-year-old Mingueza, who began the season in the club’s reserve side.
U.S forward Konrad de la Fuente and Brazilian midfielder Matheus Fernandes also made their first-team debuts, coming off the bench late in the game.
Barca produced a sluggish performance in the first half and a tame effort from Philippe Coutinho was their only shot on target, but they found their composure after the break and soon outclassed their hosts.