Lionel Messi scored two goals and played a part in the other two as Barcelona won at Wembley to leave Tottenham facing an uphill task to qualify from the Champions League group stages.
Spurs were behind within the opening two minutes of the match as Hugo Lloris, playing for the first time in over a month, rashly charged from his goal to try and intercept a Messi long-ball ahead of Jordi Alba. Alba could hardly believe his luck and squared the ball to Philippe Coutinho, who had a simple task to find the empty net.
92 - Philippe Coutinho's goal after 92 seconds is Barcelona's earliest Champions League goal since Mark van Bommel in November 2005 v Panathinaikos (36 seconds). Rapid. pic.twitter.com/4gN5gFiLYE— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) 3 October 2018
Barcelona held Tottenham at arm's length without creating many chances of their own until they doubled the lead before the half-hour mark. Coutinho miscued a close-range volley but managed to recover and found Ivan Rakitic on the edge of the area. The Croatian showed sublime technique to produce a volley which found the net via the post.
Messi could have made it three in the early moments of the second half as he weaved past the Tottenham defence and beat Lloris with a sidefooted shot that came back off the foot of the post. He hit the same post again minutes later after a driving run.
Tottenham had shown very little but Harry Kane gave them a lifeline when he outsmarted Nelson Semedo before finishing low past Ter Stegen. However, their momentum was killed almost immediately as Barcelona went right up the other end and restored their two-goal cushion. Alba's cross was left by Luis Suarez and coolly finished by Messi.
The home side refused to lie down and Erik Lamela's shot deflected in off Clement Lenglet to reduce the arrears once more. Lloris nearly gave Messi the chance to double his tally but a last-ditch Toby Alderweireld challenge spared his blushes.
A crucial block from Lenglet denied Tottenham an equaliser but their challenge was finally killed off when Alba nicked possession in a dangerous area and produced an instantaneous through-ball to Messi, who had the simple task of giving Lloris the eyes before finding the bottom corner.
It was fitting that Messi should have the final word on a night which was illuminated by his brilliance.
Key Talking Point
Tottenham produced exhibition football at times last season as they made Wembley a fortress in the Champions League, subjecting Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund to emphatic defeats in the capital, but they never got close to replicating that level of performance on Wednesday.
There's no shame in losing to Barcelona, but it was the ease with which the Blaugrana were able to get the three points that will cause concern for Mauricio Pochettino. Not until they got the score back to 3-2 did Tottenham really build up a head of steam, but by then it was too late.
Yes, Dele Alli was absent, and Spurs definitely missed him, but with the likes of Lucas Moura and Son Heung-min on the field Tottenham should have had enough firepower to cause more problems for Barcelona.
Inter's win over PSV Eindhoven leaves Tottenham cut six points adrift in Group B and they will feel that they must do the double over PSV to stand any chance of reaching the knockout stages.
Starting XI: Lloris (4); Davies (5), Sanchez (5), Alderweireld (6), Trippier (6); Wanyama (5), Winks (5); Son (6), Lamela (6), Lucas (6); Kane (7*)
Substitutes: Dier (6), Sissoko (5), Llorente (N/A)
STAR MAN - Harry Kane
Kane cut a frustrated figure in the first half but produced Tottenham's first moment of quality all night early in the second. Nelson Semedo needed a ticket to get back in after Kane left him for dead and produced the sort of finish for which he is renowned.
Unfortunately for Kane, Messi immediately restored Barcelona's two-goal lead and killed any momentum Spurs could have built.
WORST PLAYER - Hugo Lloris
Lloris was obviously keen to impress after spending over a month on the sidelines, but his mistake within two minutes set the tone for an error-strewn performance, one of his worst in a Tottenham shirt.
The Frenchman had no chance of getting to Messi's long ball ahead of Alba and a simple square ball was all it took to take him out of the game and give Coutinho a simple finish.
Lloris cost us twice. First goal. Last goal. Why are we building from the back against Barca when losing in the 89th minute— Adam Jarrett (@AdamJarrett4) 3 October 2018
Lloris rushed out like someone was in control of him on Fifa — Dean Jones (@DeanJonesBR) 3 October 2018
Time to bench Lloris and give Gazzaniga a go, he’s earned it.— liz COYS ♿️ #PCPEU (@simpson_liz) 3 October 2018
Key Talking Point
After three games without a win in La Liga, Barcelona's only priority was getting the three points and for long periods of this match it looked as if they would do so with a minimum of fuss.
At times Barca were breathtaking in attack and it wasn't just the masterful Messi who ran rings around Tottenham. Luis Suarez was a constant thorn in Tottenham's side in more ways than one, and Philippe Coutinho was excellent as well.
27 - Lionel Messi has scored more goals (21) and provided more assists (6) against English clubs in the Champions League than against sides from any other nation. Slay. pic.twitter.com/oV8KWr3nHV— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) 3 October 2018
Barcelona's defence is the only thing which could let them down this season. Tottenham didn't create a great deal yet still managed to score two goals, which will come as a concern to Ernesto Valverde.
However, if they can produce passages of play like what we saw tonight, their league form will surely take an upwards curve soon.
Starting XI: Ter Stegen (7); Alba (8), Lenglet (6), Pique (6), Semedo (6); Rakitic (8), Busquets (7), Arthur (7); Coutinho (8), Suarez (8), Messi (9*)
Substitutes: Rafinha (N/A), Vidal (N/A), Vermaelen (N/A)
STAR MAN - Lionel Messi
There was a time when Lionel Messi couldn't produce the goods on English soil, but that is not a time in which we are currently living. The Argentine scored two goals but his role in Barcelona's overall team play meant that this was probably his most complete performance on English soil.
He produced a brilliant cross-field ball for the opening goal and a wonderful cross in the build-up to Barcelona's second. He hit the post twice before he finally got the goals his performance merited, twice finding the corner of Lloris' net to kill off Tottenham's challenge.
I hear that Luka Modric is supposed to be the best player in the world these days, but I'm not buying it.
I’m not normally one to praise Messi, but never mind his goal scoring, if there’s ever been a better passer of a football I’ve not seen him.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) 3 October 2018
Messi is the best dribbler, creator, goalscorer and the best passer in the world. A genius— Benjamin Aidoo™ (@Facosh) 3 October 2018
Putting Lionel Messi up against Harry Winks is a bit like playing FIFA19 on amateur level.— Ronan Murphy (@swearimnotpaul) 3 October 2018
WORST PLAYER - Nelson Semedo
No Barcelona player deserves to be labelled "worst", but Semedo got beaten all ends up for Kane's goal. He didn't play badly though.
Tottenham are back in league action on Saturday when they entertain Cardiff City at Wembley before the international break.
Barcelona will be hoping to end a three-match winless run in La Liga on Sunday, but it will be no mean feat as they face fellow Champions League side Valencia at the Mestalla.
The two teams are next in Champions League action on October 24 when Tottenham travel to PSV Eindhoven and Barcelona host Inter.