Robert Lewandowski scored his first Barcelona hat-trick as the Blaugrana met expectations with a dominant 5-1 win over Viktoria Plzen to open their Champions League campaign.
Barca's three first-half goals were more than they managed over the whole group stage last season (two) when they were dumped into the Europa League, though sterner challenges await.
Plzen had moments against an unconvincing Barca defence, with Jan Sykora netting just before the break, but the hosts were already ahead thanks to Franck Kessie and Lewandowski, who made it 3-1 on the stroke of half-time.
Although the tempo slowed slightly, Barca remained dominant after the break and Lewandowski ensured he became the first player to net a Champions League hat-trick with three different teams before Ferran Torres got in on the act.
Barca deservedly went in front early when Jules Kounde's header from a corner set up Kessie to nod in on his first start for the club.
Plzen looked set to level when Andreas Christensen clumsily tripped Jhon Mosquera in the box, but a foul on the Dane was spotted following a VAR review.
That reprieve was added to soon after as Lewandowski ruthlessly found the bottom-right corner from 20 yards.
Plzen at least appeared to be going into the break within touching distance thanks to Sykora converting from close range, but the excellent Ousmane Dembele teed up a stooping Lewandowski header to swiftly restore the two-goal lead.
Ansu Fati surprisingly sliced well wide in the first minute of a second half that was significantly less intense, but his wastefulness mattered little.
Lewandowski increased the deficit and capped his hat-trick with another sumptuous 20-yard finish after a neat interchange with Torres.
The Spain winger then rounded things off with a thumping strike from Dembele's cross.
What does it mean? Barca starting to right wrongs
Barcelona's Champions League campaign last season was dreadful – while they were paired with Bayern Munich in the group, they also finished below Benfica. Dynamo Kyiv were the only team they beat.
Granted, their group this season is even tougher given Bayern and Inter are the other two teams Barca will face, but this was clearly a much greater showing than they produced against anyone in 2021-22. This was not a season-defining showing by any stretch, but the fact Barca made it look so straightforward at least shows progress.
Dembele ouses class
Lewandowski will obviously hog most headlines with his exceptional treble, but Dembele was still the best player on the pitch.
His five key passes – and two assists – were match highs, but he was just an absolute terror in general. A tremendous display.
Fati finding his feet
Xavi has been patient with Fati this season following his injury woes. This was his first start of the campaign and there was certainly some rustiness on show, as one might expect.
None of his four shots were on target, though Barca will be happy to see him come through the game unscathed, and he was lively in the first half.
Key Opta Facts
- Barcelona have now won their opening match in 19 of their 27 Champions League campaigns (D6 L2), with tonight the fifth time they have netted five in their opening game at the tournament.
- Plzen have never won their opening game in any of their four Champions League seasons (D2 L2).
- Lewandowski has scored 32 goals in his last 20 Champions League group stage matches, only failing to score in three games in this run.
- Kessie scored his maiden Champions League goal in his sixth appearance (five for Milan, one for Barcelona). He is only the fourth African to score in the competition for Barca.
- Lewandowski is the oldest debutant to score (34y 17d) for a new club in the competition since Mathieu Valbuena for Olympiakos in September 2019 (34y 355d).
Barca go to Bayern next Tuesday as Lewandowski returns to the Allianz Arena, while Plzen will host Inter the same day.