Classy Rakitic gives Catalans the edge

Ivan Rakitic (L) and Luis Suarez celebrate during the UEFA Champions League group E football match. Photo: AFP

Substitute Ivan Rakitic scored twice to earn Barcelona a 2-0 victory over BATE on Tuesday and move the European champions three points clear at the top of Group E.

Rakitic replaced the injured Sergi Roberto midway through the first half and made the difference for Luis Enrique's side in Borisov - scoring from two second-half Neymar passes to give Barca an away win after recent defeats on the road to Celta Vigo and Sevilla.

The visitors without Messi dominated much of the game against a side crowned Belarusian champions for the 10th season running on Friday but were made to wait until three minutes into the second half for Rakitic to open the scoring from long range.

Neymar - who scored four times in Saturday's hammering of Rayo Vallecano - was instrumental, cutting in from the left and supplying for Rakitic to power home his first competitive Barca goal since the Champions League final.

And the Brazilian laid on the second shortly after the hour, Rakitic finding space again - this time inside the area - before expertly chipping the ball over Sergey Chernik.

While the visitors made hard work of their win, Barca sit three points clear at the midway point of the group, with Luis Enrique now waiting on the extent of Roberto's injury, with their ranks already limited by a transfer ban and injuries to Rafinha, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.

Following his four-goal haul at the weekend, Neymar tested Chernik three minutes in before the BATE goalkeeper tipped Luis Suarez's header over the crossbar.

Chernik remained busy as Barca applied pressure but Luis Enrique's men were hit by Roberto's injury-enforced withdrawal after 18 minutes.

Rakitic replaced the midfielder as Barca remained on top prior to the half-hour, going close again when Sergio Busquets saw a prodded effort roll across goal, having done well to connect with Neymar's deep delivery.

Rakitic should have done better with an unmarked header inside the area before Neymar's curled strike wide proved the final effort of the half.

Croatia international Rakitic made no mistake with his second opportunity however - finding space on the edge of the area before collecting Neymar's pass and hitting a powerful drive past Chernik.

Neymar almost joined him on the scoresheet with an ambitious volley from the edge of the area that edged just wide of the hosts' goal.

However, intelligence from Rakitic and Neymar's awareness allowed the latter to make sure of the result - pulling wide inside the area to receive the pass before dinking an effort over Chernik.

As well as Barca B midfielder Gumbau, Sandro Ramirez was given a late run-out at the Borisov Arena, as Barca saw out a relatively comfortable win that was soured only by the withdrawal of Roberto.

Rakitic replaced the injured Sergi Roberto midway through the first half and made the difference for Luis Enrique's side in Borisov. File Photo: AFP


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