Xavi Hernandez proclaimed Barcelona rid themselves of their Champions League ghosts after Ferran Torres’ goal secured a narrow 1-0 win at FC Porto on Wednesday.
Barça have been eliminated in the group stage in each of the last two seasons and have suffered some tough defeats in the competition in recent years, especially away from home.
They had to dig deep to beat Porto, who had a second half penalty overturned by VAR and a goal ruled out for offside but held on to make it six points from six after two games.
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)
“The first half was quite good, but we didn’t have control in the second and we suffered,” said Xavi, who took charge of his 100th game as Barcelona coach against Porto.
“This is the Champions League and it is hard. It’s Europe, Porto away from home… it’s difficult. Everyone worked so hard. We have to improve, and we will, but they are three golden points.
“There was talk before the game about ghosts [in the Champions League] and we’ve rid ourselves of some of them, beating a big European side at their stadium.
“Maybe we have learned to win the hard way. We are at the most difficult club in the world. You win 1-0 and the glass is half empty. This is the Champions League. We win a game and it doesn’t seem enough.”
Barça were without the injured Pedri, Frenkie de Jong and Raphinha in Portugal, while they lost Robert Lewandowski to a knock in the first half.
Xavi said the Polish striker took “a blow to the ankle” and could recover in time to face Granada in LaLiga on Sunday.
Young winger Lamine Yamal, who became the youngest player to ever start a Champions League game on Wednesday at 16 years and 83 days old, also went off in the second half.
During a break in play, Yamal disappeared down the tunnel and didn’t return, leaving Barça a player light until they decided to replace him. “He felt bad, he had stomach pain,” Xavi explained. “We suffered with 10 players because he couldn’t return, even though we tried to wait for him.”
Torres’ fourth goal of the season, set up by Ilkay Gündogan, was the difference on the night, but Porto will feel they deserved more from the game.
Referee Anthony Taylor overturned his original decision to award the Portuguese side a penalty for a handball by João Cancelo after VAR spotted a handball by Stephen Eustáquio moments before.
Mehdi Taremi also had a goal ruled out for offside, with Porto coach Sérgio Conceição left fuming at the performance from the officials.
“The referees must be happy with their performance,” he told DAZN. “We are disappointed, frustrated, we worked hard, we played a fantastic game.
“We created a lot of chances. It was a cruel game for us. We played against a big club, but we also played against more than just a big club.” Barça are top of Group H with six points, followed by Porto and Shakhtar Donestsk, who both have three, while Antwerp remain pointless.