Barcelona beat Dinamo in the Champions League at the half-empty Camp Nou
Gerard Pique ignited Barcelona's Champions League campaign on Wednesday by scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Dynamo Kiev, a victory witnessed in half of the empty Camp Nou. Attendance was recorded at 45,968 people, with several seats filled with a small number of fans for the game coach Ronald Koeman said that the team had to win to have any chance of reaching the last 16.
After losing both of their opening Group E matches 3-0 to Bayern Munich and Benfica, Barcelona needed a win to revive their chances of progressing and avoid the embarrassment of a group stage exit for the first time since 2000.
Pique at least emphasized that the job was done in this regard, finishing off his goal from close range at the end of a dismal first half enough to take Barcelona off and running, with a crucial game away from Kiev now coming in two weeks' time.
Before that, they will face Real Madrid in their first Clasico of the season on Sunday, when another win will make it a very positive week for Koeman, whose future looked bleak when the team lost to Atletico Madrid before the international break.
That match will also be at the Camp Nou and it remains to be seen if the number of Barcelona fans present improves.
An early start may not be helpful, and there is undoubtedly still some lingering tension from the Covid-19 pandemic, both locally and among traveling fans.
But it's hard not to conclude that the fans are also less excited than the team that lost Lionel Messi at the end of the season and lost its last three consecutive Champions League matches at home, the same number they managed in the previous 74.
Pique's goal then made Barcelona's top scorer in the Champions League at 34 years and 260 days, but the most exciting nowadays surrounds 18-year-old Ansu Fati, who is expected to ease concerns about his future by signing a new contract on Thursday.
Fati, whose deal currently expires at the end of the season, is still facilitation again 11 months after the injury.
He came on as a substitute after starting against Valencia on Sunday, and should make more appearances against Real Madrid this weekend.
Barcelona could have gone ahead in two minutes, but Sergino Dest, who was playing to the right of the front triple instead of the right-back, nodded from a yard at the back post.
Luke de Jong also headed the type of chance he is in the team to score but Barcelona hardly deserves the lead, their play is stalled and hesitant, and lacks any of the expected crises from a team trying to stay in the competition.
The crowd was as flat as the team, and neither of them really encouraged each other, until the sight of Fati coming off the touchline to warm up suddenly caused the fans to be dumbfounded.
Then the players felt it, too, the commotion that reached them on the field, and within moments, Pique was left free at the back post to meet Jordi Alba's cross in the hemisphere, and the ball flew.
Fati came with Philippe Coutinho in the first half and should have scored. He got the chance by speeding up Dinamo goalkeeper Georgi Boschan but had his back to goal when Memphis Depay gave it back to him.
Fati could have slipped back to Coutinho, but instead, he grabbed the ball and smashed it wide.
The match drifted and without a second goal, Barcelona briefly became concerned. The better opponent may have turned the spiral in the latter stages but Dynamo never created the decisive opportunity and Barcelona secured a much-needed victory.