Coming on as a second half substitute for Ajax Amsterdam, South African Thulani Serero was unable to prevent his side from going down 4-0 to Barcelona in their opening Group H UEFA Champions League match at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night.
A hat-trick from Lionel Messi and a goal from Gerard Pique handed Barcelona the perfect start to their Champions League campaign while Ajax will have to go back to the drawing board after missing a penalty won by Serero.
Barcelona were in control of the match from the opening whistle as Ajax struggled to get hold of the ball, and then keep possession when they did have it.
The first shot of the evening came in the third minute as Neymar, who caused problems for the Ajax defence all night, saw his shot well-saved.
Two minutes later and Neyamr created a chance for Cesc Fabregas with a low cross into the box, but the latter fired over the bar.
In the 22nd minute Barcelona made their pressure tell as Messi curled home a superb free-kick from 25-yards out, 1-0.
Ajax’s best chance of the half came in the 32nd minute when Ricardo van Rhijn met a Bojan Krkic cross, but he saw his header brilliantly saved by Victor Valdes.
Barcelona, though, were at it again two minutes later with Neymar seeing his low drive going inches wide of the post.
The second 45 saw Ajax start a lot more positively, but they were quickly pegged back as Messi found his second goal in the 55th minute after driving into the box, cutting in from the right and drilling a left-footed shot beyond the Ajax keeper, 2-0.
Serero came on with 30 minutes to play and he looked lively, but there was nothing he could do as Pique scored his side’s third goal in the 69th minute, heading home a Neymar cross, 3-0.
Six minutes later and Messi put the result beyond doubt after he concluded his hat-trick with a clinical finish into the bottom right hand corner from just inside the box, 4-0.
Serero did have a positive impact for Ajax as he won a penalty-kick in the 76th minute after the South African was pulled down inside the box by Javier Mascherano. Sadly, though, Kolbeinn Sigthorsson saw his penalty saved as Barcelona walked away with a comfortable three points.
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