Performance spotlight: Shevchenko vs Barca '97
As Barcelona and Dynamo Kiev prepare to meet for the ninth time in the Champions League we’re taking a look back to November 1997 and the night when a 21 year old Andriy Shevchenko tore the Catalans apart in their own back yard.
In just 44 minutes, Shevchenko bagged three goals. While Barcelona’s side was admittedly depleted, they still had many members of the side that would that season win the league and cup double.
Sheva was a striker who could just about do it all. On this night, however, it wouldn’t be his neat footwork or precise finishing ability that would see him take Barca apart - it was above all else a phenomenal show of determination and bravery - and some really shit goalkeeping.
His first came after just nine minutes and can pretty much entirely be put at the feet of Victor Baia, a competent keeper who had just about his worst evening in a Barcelona shirt. An in-swinging free kick from the right was met by an onrushing Shevchenko, who looked as surprised as anyone to see his effort heading one way and the Barca keeper the other.
23 minutes later it was a similar story. A hopeful punt skyward from the right touchline should have been an easy take for Baia, but as the ball ballooned skyward and the Barca defence switched off, Shevchenko was ready. While the Barca mans jump was feeble, the Ukrainians was mighty. Even with his arms outstretched Sheva got there first as once again the Barca defence had to watch the ball roll into their keeper-less net.
Barcelona’s misery was compounded with 44 minutes gone. Sheva, in possession and bearing down on Barca’s box, was covered by three players and seemingly had nowhere to go. A quick step over and a feint layer and he was sprawled on the floor with the ref pointing to the spot. It might have looked harsh - till you saw the replays.
Scythed down by not one but two defenders, the young Ukrainian immediately signalled that the penalty was his. After sending Baia the wrong way he’d capped off a display that had all but sealed his sides progression out of the group stage and been the sole cause of one of the most humiliating 45 minutes the Nou camp had ever seen.
Words by Andy Gallagher