Lewandowski Nets Hat-trick as Barcelona Thumps Plzen
Lewandowski Nets Hat-trick as Barcelona Thumps Plzen: Robert Lewandowski begins his Champions League journey for Barcelona with a hat-trick as Xavi Hernandez’s side thumped Viktoria Plzen 5-1 at the Camp Nou on Wednesday.
Barca, who failed to get past the group stage last season, also saw Franck Kessie and Ferran Torres score in an accomplished display.
Lewandowski has now scored eight goals in just five appearances for his new team in all competitions.
“I knew from the beginning here it was going to be important to adapt right from the first game,” he told uefa.com.
“Today is my wife’s birthday so the goals and the birthday were for her. The fact that she was in the stadium on her birthday means a lot. Something amazing for me.”
There will be tougher tests to come for the five-time European champions with Bayern Munich and Inter Milan also in Group C.
The Catalan giants visit the Allianz Arena next Tuesday in a real test of how far they have come in the last 12 months, after Bayern’s opening 2-0 win at the San Siro.
Barca took the lead in the 13th minute as Kessie nodded the ball home after Jules Kounde had headed Ousmane Dembele’s corner back across goal.
It was the Ivorian midfielder’s first goal for the club since signing from AC Milan in the close season.
Ansu Fati almost doubled the advantage midway through the first half, but his effort was saved by visiting goalkeeper Jindrich Stanek.
Plzen were awarded a penalty in the 25th minute as Andreas Christensen brought down Jhon Mosquera, but the referee changed his mind after a VAR review and instead gave a free-kick to Barca.
Lewandowski moved ahead of Karim Benzema into third place on the all-time Champions League goalscoring charts with his 87th in the competition, and first for his new club.
The 34-year-old curled a low shot into the bottom corner from just inside the area in the 34th minute.
The Czechs gave themselves a lifeline shortly before the break as Jan Sykora headed in Vaclav Jemelka’s cross.
But Plzen could not stay within a goal until half-time as Lewandowski stooped unmarked to head Dembele’s cross over the line.
Lewandowski completed his sixth Champions League hat-trick with a fine low strike from distance in the 67th minute.
“I don’t know if Robert is the best striker in Europe but for us he’s the best,” said Xavi.
“He helps us play out, he presses, he brings us loads of solutions in attack. Total maturity as a player, and completely spectacular. He scored a hat-trick but how he worked for the team.”
Xavi’s men wasted little time in making it five, as substitute Torres drilled a brilliant volley on the turn into the top corner from Dembele’s chipped pass.
Plzen avoided any further damage but face a daunting task in their remaining five group matches, with a home game against Inter next up.