BARCELONA (AFP) – A goal by Gerard Pique gave Barcelona a winning start to their Champions League campaign, but they were far from convincing 1-0 victors at home to Cypriots APOEL Nicosia on Wednesday.
Pique headed home the only goal of the game from Lionel Messi’s free-kick midway through the first-half, but APOEL managed to subdue a much changed Barca side despite the presence of Messi and Neymar up front.
And Luis Enrique’s men had debutant Marc-Andre ter Stegen to thank for a fourth consecutive victory to start the season as the German ‘keeper made a flying save in stoppage time to deny Gustavo Manduca.
Barca though go to the top of Group F as Ajax held French champions Paris Saint-Germain 1-1 in Amsterdam with Barca set to travel to Paris on matchday two.
Luis Enrique made nine changes from the side that started Saturday’s 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao with Messi and Munir El Haddadi the only players to retain their place.
The former Celta Vigo boss defended that decision, but admitted his side had struggled to breakdown the mass ranks of the APOEL defence.
The number of changes appeared to affect Barca’s rhythm in the first half as they dominated without creating many clear-cut chances from open play.
Messi was first to threaten with a curling free-kick that Urko Pardo in the APOEL goal did well to turn to safety.
Barca then went in front from another Messi free-kick as this time the Argentine’s in-swinging delivery was headed home at the near post by Pique.
Messi and Neymar were continuing to link-up well after the former provided the Brazilian with two assists at the weekend and the roles were reversed five minutes before the break as Messi fired Neymar’s cutback towards goal and Pardo made another impressive save.