Royal Antwerp salvaged some pride after a brutal introduction to Europe’s top table, overcoming a Barcelona side featuring a significant number of understudies 3-2 to beat Spanish opposition (and Barcelona) for only the second time ever. Antwerp’s only previous win against Spanish opposition came in the long-defunct Inter-Cities Fairs Cup of 1965/66.
But they gave themselves the best possible start of ending that wait inside just two minutes when Iñaki Peña passed a ball with too much force to Oriol Romeu, who miscontrolled straight into the path of Arthur Vermeeren, handing him the simple task of firing home a somewhat sliced shot in off the post.
Determined to exit the UCL with some semblance of honor, the home side continued to pressurize the Catalan giants. However, Mark van Bommel’s men had not conceded three or more goals in their two prior UCL home group defeats for nothing and were eventually undone shortly before the break.
Ferran Torres ran onto a pass from Lamine Yamal after some great counter-attacking play and he hit a fine first-time shot into the net from close range to level up.
Somehow, the second half’s early moments managed to be even crazier than those of the first, with an offside goal for Vincent Janssen ruled out. Sergi Roberto then received a red card for what looked like a reckless tackle on Mandela Keita’s ankle, but that would be downgraded to a yellow after a VAR review.
However, that would be forgotten when Janssen finally restored his side’s lead, with an inch-perfect pass into the box from Alhassan Yusuf after a turnover in possession allowing him to drift through the backline and sidefoot past Peña.
Having nothing to lose was clearly working in Antwerp’s favor. They continued to play to their own tune, though Barcelona made the final few minutes uncomfortable – seemingly blissfully unaware that Porto were busy destroying Shakhtar Donetsk and handing top spot to them regardless.
And a below-strength Blaugrana equalized in stoppage time, with İlkay Gündoğan flighting in a free-kick that was headed home by Marc Guiu. But there was to be one final twist, as Antwerp launched a counter straight from the kick-off, and a through-ball from Jelle Bataille found George Ilenikhena, who fired into the Barcelona net with real composure to give the Antwerp faithful their belated moment in the sun.
While the result itself does nothing to alter the makeup of this season’s UCL, it still represents a fifth straight victory for Antwerp at Bosuilstadion.
This victory against Barcelona will go down in history as one of Antwerp’s most memorable moments in European competition. It was a match where the underdogs defied the odds and showcased their determination and skill. The outcome not only salvaged their pride but also demonstrated their potential to compete with Europe’s elite.
From the opening minutes, Antwerp displayed their hunger for victory. With a stroke of luck, Arthur Vermeeren capitalized on a defensive mistake from Barcelona, giving his team an early lead. This set the tone for an intense battle between the two sides.
Antwerp’s resilience was evident throughout the match. Despite Barcelona’s attempts to regain control, the home team remained steadfast in their pursuit of a positive result. Ferran Torres’ equalizer before halftime showcased their ability to counter-attack with precision, leaving Barcelona stunned.
The second half was filled with drama, with Vincent Janssen’s goal ruled out for offside and Sergi Roberto receiving a red card that was later downgraded to a yellow. Antwerp, fueled by their desire to prove themselves, continued to press forward and were rewarded when Janssen scored a well-executed goal.
Barcelona, though below full strength, fought back and managed to equalize in stoppage time. However, Antwerp had one final twist in store. In a swift counter-attack, George Ilenikhena found the back of the net, securing a historic victory for his team.
While this victory does not impact the overall standings of the Champions League, it serves as a testament to Antwerp’s growing reputation in European football. Their consistent success at Bosuilstadion reflects their ability to perform under pressure and compete against formidable opponents.
Antwerp’s triumph over Barcelona will be remembered as a milestone in their journey as a club. It showcases their potential to challenge the established powerhouses of European football and provides a source of inspiration for future generations of players and fans.
As Antwerp celebrates this remarkable victory, their focus will undoubtedly shift towards future challenges and opportunities. This win serves as a reminder that with determination and belief, anything is possible in the world of football.
Antwerp’s journey in the Champions League may have come to an end, but their legacy as conquerors of Barcelona will endure.